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14 surprising things doctors should know about working in Australia

Part of the fun of travelling is learning surprising things about a country along the way.

But not all surprises are good.

And if you’re moving to a country to live and work, forewarned is forearmed.

Here is a list of surprising things doctors should but may not know about Australia before moving.

Medical registration process

Doctors applying to work in Australia from overseas need to undergo a rigorous assessment process.

There are four different pathways available for International Medical Graduates:

  • Standard pathway 
  • Competent Authority pathway
  • Specialist pathway
  • Short term training in a Medical Specialty pathway

The Australian Medical Council (AMC) manages assessments for the Standard pathway.

The Medical Board of Australia manages all other assessments, processes all applications and grants registrations.

Depending on your country of origin, you may need to pass exams and complete other assessments to ensure competency in Australian medical standards.

Medicare system

Australia has a universal healthcare system known as Medicare which provides subsidised or free healthcare for all permanent Australian residents.

It has been in place since 1984 with its original name and model ‘Medibank’ founded in 1975.

All doctors working in Australia need to be registered for Medicare, where they will be given a provider number and be able to bill Medicare for consults.

Doctors must also apply for a Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) prescriber number which will allow them to write valid prescriptions.

Doctors need to understand basic compliance and billing procedures as well as which patients may be ineligible for Medicare (patients not covered under a reciprocal health care agreement).

They also need to be aware of the government policies and funding regimes around the healthcare system that impact a medical practice.

Rural and remote opportunities

Australia is a vast land of 7.69 million square kilometres.

One of its most surprising things is that more than two thirds of its population live in its eight capital cities, seven of which lie on the coast.

But that still leaves a third of its number or nearly nine million people who live in rural settings.

Many of these settings are extremely remote and far from established hospitals.

There exists the potential to service or work in these remote areas.

Doing so can be extremely lucrative.

Australia’s Stronger Rural Health Strategy (SRHS) is a 10-year plan aiming to deliver 3000 additional doctors and 3000 more nurses to rural areas in need by 2028.

On average, doctors can make 10-15 per cent more money working in rural areas although some state governments have provided incentives well above this mark to address areas in need.

Telehealth services also play a crucial role in rural areas .

Doctors should be comfortable with telehealth technology and other remote consultation methods.

Flying doctors

The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) is one of Australia’a most surprising things and it’s been around for almost a century!

It was established in 1928 and is a non-profit organisation that delivers emergency medical services to outback regions.

It employs more than 1800 people across its 23 bases around the country.

Working for the RFDS can be an incredible way to see the country as well as a lucrative and rewarding experience.

Indigenous health

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience significantly more health issues than the general population.

This includes a lower life expectancy of as much as eight years.

Doctors interested in working in Australia should familiarise themselves with the health issues faced by Indigenous Australians as well as culturally appropriate and sensitive healthcare practices.

They also need to familiarise themselves with traditional medicines often favoured by Indigenous Australians while administering healthcare services.

Cultural diversity

Australia’s multiculturalism is high among its most surprising things.

Doctors are likely to encounter patients from a multitude of ethnicities.

With this comes a variety of challenges beginning with communication barriers that may require a translator or similar device.

It also demands the understanding of cultural sensitivities regarding treatments.

Climate and environmental factors

Australia’s climate varies significantly from tropical in the north to temperate in the south.

The northern half of Australia is prone to summer cyclones and storms, often leading to significant flooding and associated tropical diseases.

These may include leptospirosis, dengue fever, malaria and a range of other mosquito-borne diseases such as Ross River virus.

The south of the country experiences hot, dry summers, leaving it vulnerable to heatwaves and bushfires.

Wildlife-related health risks

Unique animals and insects are among the most surprising things you might encounter in Australia.

Many pose significant health threats – many are potentially deadly.

These include a plethora of venomous snakes, most commonly brown snakes, which are often found in urban settings. 

Redback and funnel-web spiders are also a threat along with blue-ringed octopus.

There is also an average of around 15 unprovoked shark attacks in Australia every year.

Professional development

Doctors in Australia are required to participate in Continued Professional Development (CPD) activities to maintain their registration.

This involves registering with an AMC-accredited CPD course, writing a professional development plan and logging a minimum of 50 hours per year of activities.

These activities include performance reviewing, measuring outcomes and other educational undertakings such as attending lectures, conferences and reading.

Alternative medicine practices

Australia closely observes a number of alternative medical practices.

These include Chinese medicine, naturopathy and homeopathy.

Holistic medicine is also becoming more fashionable in Australia.

This leads to more patients utilising treatments in tandem with or instead of traditional medicine and requiring doctors to have a greater understanding of their potential impacts.

Quarantine regulations

Australia has strict quarantine regulations aimed at preventing the introduction of pests, invasive species and limiting the spread of disease.

Doctors should be aware of these regulations, especially when travelling internationally or talking with patients who intend to do so in high-risk areas.

Mental health challenges

Mental health has soared in Australia and is now among the most common reasons patients visit doctors.

This is particularly true in rural and remote areas where many Australians face unique work and lifestyle challenges.

Doctors should be prepared to address the challenges faced by rural communities, many of which are forced to cope with limited resources and funding.

Refugees and asylum seekers

Medicare services are available for eligible refugees, asylum seekers and humanitarian entrants. 

Most of these services and regulations vary slightly from state to state.

Doctors should familiarise themselves with these policies and the unique healthcare needs of these people.

Legal considerations

Australia’s medical health industry is governed by a range of laws and regulations including medical liability and professional conduct standards.

Doctors working in Australia should be aware of these laws and standards.

Sole trader doctors are also responsible for their own professional indemnity insurance (PII).

Employee doctors are normally covered by their practice or hospital.

Contact Health Recruitment Australia today

Australia is full of surprising things – a land of incredible experiences and opportunity for all and doctors are no exception.

But it pays to do a little research about what to expect before moving to any prospective new homeland.

If you have any questions or queries about what you can expect working as a doctor in Australia, a call to Health Recruitment Australia is an absolute must.

HRA is a dedicated recruitment agency specialising in matching overseas doctors of all ages with the right clinics in Australia.

We know everything there is to know about working as a GP in Australia – it’s what we do.

There is a significant GP shortage in Australia at present and a once in a lifetime chance beckons.

Multiple opportunities exist for doctors interested in making the move down under and taking advantage of everything it has to offer.

If you’re one of the thousands of doctors considering emigrating, let HRA make your job easier.

We can help you find you the right city, area, and practice to work in.

We’ll answer all of your questions, putting your mind at ease to make your move as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

And we’ll even sort out all that annoying paperwork for you.

Why not start with an informal, no-obligation discussion with the experienced team at Health Recruitment Australia? Contact us.

Enquire now, and we’ll be
in touch shortly!


Enquire now, and we’ll be
in touch shortly!