Friday, July 24, 2009

Jobless international medical students in Oz

The title explains it all. A lot of my International friends and medical colleagues have been groaning in protest, expressing their disappoint and some even throwing tantrums at how disgustingly unfair the current internship allocation is in Australia. The first round offers have been released and not a single International student had been confirmed a place to work as a medical intern in Australia. This doesn't apply only in NSW but all states in Australia. The main reason why this has happened is that this year, IMET has enforced a priority listing for students applying for internship positions which means all Australian citizens in NSW are GURANTEED A PLACE. The remaining places will be filled by next in line which are the New Zealanders and other Australians that have graduated from Universities in other states. Which basically puts us International students last on the list and its very likely that even if we do get a job it will be at some crappy rural hospital. Furthermore, there is only a 'limited' number of positions available as IMET has been specifically instructed that they are not allowed to 'over-allocate' under any circumstances. Thirdly I suspect that the intake of International students doing medicine is steadily increasing as each year commences.

For me, it doesn't affect me all that much as I have sort of made my mind that I am not going to work in the land of Oz and is strongly inclined to apply for housemanship at Singapore. Still, I can empathasise and sympathise with my fellow medical colleagues who have high hopes of working as junior doctors in Sydney. Some have expressed regret of not applying to other states in Australia to increase the proability of securing a medical position; however there are a few paranoid cases (I have one guy friend in partiucular) who have applied to all states in Australia. Perhaps now its a good time to look elsewhere for a job? Anyway, since this so called 'internship crisis' has never happened before, there have been numerous emails sent out to help try and clarify the situation due to the many angry accusations and bombardment of unanswered questions. Furthermore there has been a scheduled talk organised by the NSW Medical students council and AMSA on the 30th July at Uni of Sydney in the aim of shedding some light into this matter. Well all hope is not lost, the second round offers will be confirmed on the 5th August and IMET has strongly emphasised that International students do stand a good chance at working in Australia.

This is the email I got from the Student Medical Council from Uni of Sydney which does clarifies the stituation somewhat:

Q. What is the current process of intern allocations in New South Wales?
This year NSW Health made the decision to implement the priority listing for students applying for internship positions in NSW. The priority listing has existed for many years. It has not been applied for some years, due to there being fewer available graduates than positions available. IMET informed NSW Health late last year that the numbers of graduating students from NSW Faculties was similar to the numbers who graduated last year. However, NSW Health was concerned that there may have been an increase in interstate graduates applying to work in NSW since some states have significantly more graduates this year, and Area Health Services (the employers of interns) indicated that they did not have funds to employ the increased numbers of interns in 2010.

Each year a number of students in each category of the priority listing do not accept their placements. In recent years, when all offers have been made simultaneously, this means that vacant positions remain that can only be filled by late applicants. This year, when IMET has been told it can not "over-allocate" under any circumstances , we have to wait until the first round offers to students have been accepted or declined (about 10 days from now, and then offers can be made for the remaining places. Initially, offers have to be made to the next group on the priority list, which is Australian or New Zealand citizens who have graduated from Universities in other states. Following that group, international students studying in Sydney on student visas are the next group

If the uptake rates are similar to last year, IMET anticipates that the numbers of students who accept places in NSW will be very close to the number of applicants who genuinely wish to work in NSW. One of the problems is that each group on the priority list has a non-acceptance rate, and this is compounded by the fact that some students accept places in multiple states and leave it until January to decide which one they will turn up at! Some students, having accepted a place (or even several places) simply don't show up in January at all. Some of this frustration would be minimised if we had a national "wash up" forum, whereby each state could share which students had accepted a place, and students who had accepted multiple places would be asked to select one only position. Unfortunately, the state jurisdictions do not undertake such a meeting at this time.

In summary, international students are likely to be offered a place in NSW, but these places may cannot be offered until a vacancy is identified, which could occur any time between mid August and January of 2010.

Students will be randomly allocated into the allocation pool from the pool of international student graduating from NSW Faculties, as positions become available for each "round" of allocations. From the above comments, it is anticipated that there will be more than 2 rounds. There is a good chance that if international students do not receive an offer in the second round, they may get an offer in a subsequent round, but this can not be guaranteed.

These arrangements for international students has come about because, unfortunately, the decision made this year to absolutely limit the number of places, along with the instruction that "over-allocation" was not allowed despite good data about acceptance rates from previous years has not allowed any other alternative.

Q. If I obtain an offer on the second round, do I have the option of trading offers with other candidates? If I do NOT obtain a second offer, then what are my options if I wish to remain in Australia? At this time, is there anything I can do/anywhere I can apply, any appeal I can make, in the event that no second offer is pronounced on August 5th?

Any appeal process is unlikely to be successful, given that the process has been determined by a government instrumentality. You can apply for positions in other states of Australia, but be mindful of the fact that other states have similar processes in place.

Ultimately most if not all international students will be able to get intern places in NSW starting next year, and in the unlikely circumstances that you don't, there is very chance that there will be vacancies elsewhere in Australia.

Please continue to check the IMET website for the updates.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

1 week break

Right now, I am officially on my 1 week break. I've just finished my endocrine posting so I have basically only two more selective terms (gastro and respiratory) each spanning a month's duration before I face my DREADED FINALS. As each day passes, I can't help but get more jittery...I feel very unprepared considering the limited amount of time I have left. And it doesn't help that my friends from my previous medical university have posted countless photos of their convocation/graduation day/graduation ball openly to the public. There's no need for words, the pictures themselves reveal their inner happiness and triumph of finally graduating as a doctor after salvaging for approximately 6 years. It does make me feel incredibly envious of them; wishing I was in their place instead of trying to fight the hands of time. I desperately need to MAKE FULL USE of this 1 week to try and squeeze as much revision as possible especially targeting the VIVA questions and other subspecialities like paediatrics, O&G and pyschiatry. I haven't yet properly touched the subspecialities yet; I've been focusing mostly on trying to complete the surgical, medical and emergency viva questions (in total there are 125 questions) and at least I'm almost there. Each question covers a particular clinical problem. Of course, you can take the easy way out and refer to the senior's notes on the management of that specific clinical scenario but you will be clearly LACKING in knowledge about the disease. I've been citing clinical practice guidelines online as well as referring to my ever-so-dependable Kumar & Clark clinical medicine textbook and Oxford clinical handbook to tackle each problem. That's why its so time consuming for me and furthermore the most irratating thing is that I always tend to forget most of the important stuff when I move on to the next topic. I need to re-revise the entire stash of viva questions (at least 2 more rounds) before I sit for my exams to ensure that I instil all the vital aspects and recall them at the tip of my fingertaps. Because on the actual day, when you are nervous and tense plus given only 5 minutes to prove/convince your examiner that you know your stuff; you are definitely bound to forget some important detail. We have been advised to practice our vivas among our colleagues so that it will come like second nature to us during the exam.

Sigh, I feel so overwhelmed with the vast amount of information I need to learn. I wish that I was blessed with a memory like some of my other friends who only need to read the material once and yet recall the information almost perfectly the next time you ask them. I mean, even normal human beings have a limited capacity of memory space in their brains. But no, medical students are an entirely different race; we need to gorge ourselves with endless information at lightning speed and regurgitate the entire stuff out as if we have had numerous lectures and teaching sessions on it. In reality, we only get one class (sometimes two if we are lucky) that touches briefly on the topic and its up to us to take the initiative to delve further and expand on the topic during our spare time (or whatever time we have left).

A lot of my friends are strong Christians which makes me feel that religion can be a useful tool in times of hardship such as facing exams. I am amazed with the amount of faith they have in themselves and the will of God that He will see them through the exams so long as they trust and believe in Him and themselves. One of my friends told me that it doesn't matter whether or not she passes the exam the first time, it could actually be a blessing in disguise and that God has a 'Bigger Plan' for her. Eventually God will lead her down the path that is intended for her for eg: her parents and relatives were steadily pressuring her to accept her offer to study pharmacy in UK but somehow she had self-doubts as she felt that this was not the 'career' God had chosen for her and that she was destined for 'bigger things' such as contributing back to the society and helping others in need so she opted to choose medicine at IMU instead of pharmacy at a much more prestigious university in the UK. And she is currently happy and has absolutely no regrets at ever having made this decision. I know one shouldn't turn to religion in the hopes that God will help them achieve what they desire but nevertheless, it does help a lot to know that there is someone out there watching over you and ensuring that you will eventually make it through the darkness. So I actually do feel its quite comforting to engage in a prayer or two everday despite not being a Christian or not really having any kind of religion to help calm my nerves and enable me to achieve a state of tranquility and harmony as I definitely need a clear and strong mind right now to concentrate on my finals.