Are Australian Medical Graduates Ready to Work?

Medical graduates in doctor uniform
Researchers at the University of Tasmania undertook a retrospective survey of contactable medical students who had graduated from Launceston’s Clinical School during 2005-2014 and are now working in the health industry. The students were asked to self-report on preparedness in the survey which was based on one developed by the Peninsula Medical School in the UK and adapted for Australian use. The aim of the survey was to provide information about medical graduate preparedness in relation to patient-centred care and clinical practice capabilities, and whether those leaving university have the right skills to assist Australia’s aging population.

135 medical graduates responded indicating how prepared they were in 44 practice areas including recording patient history and reducing the risk of cross-infection among patients. The survey found most graduates felt prepared in 41 of the practice areas, however many did not consider themselves well or very well prepared in certain crucial areas which included providing nutritional care, clinical governance, and responding to errors. These areas were among six in which at least one in ten respondents felt unprepared and have been identified as requiring training improvements.

Although the results were mostly encouraging, it was deduced from the survey that the results suggest a need for further improving education for medical undergrads and aligning training with the needs of health care employment. However current practicing health professionals argue that some areas require clinical experience which can only be learnt through internship. It may also be that some areas where doctors felt unprepared, such as providing nutritional care, are often provided by other specialists – dieticians in the case of nutritional care – and therefore leads to doctors losing skills in those areas. Other leading health professionals continue to call for more equitable distribution of specialist medical training to combat doctor shortages, particularly in rural and remote communities.

The study, which was published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) is the first study of its type. The Tasmanian researchers believe such type of study can help to shape medical training and should be extended nationally.
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