Career transitions aren’t uncommon in the healthcare industry. Medical professionals typically aim to expand their horizons and broaden their skills, which often entails switching gears and heading towards a new career trajectory.

It’s especially the case among nurses shifting their careers to become doctors. If you’re one of them, it’s crucial to realise that the path isn’t easy—you’ll inevitably face hurdles. 

However, preparing for them can make your career advancement much more manageable. This article explores the nurse-to-doctor transition in Australia to help you through your journey.

How Nurses Become Doctors in Australia: 8 Steps

Here’s what you should expect to do for your medical career goals.

1. Evaluate your education

Nursing provides a solid foundation in healthcare. However, transitioning to a medical career entails a comprehensive understanding of the academic prerequisites for becoming a doctor. So, assess your educational background to determine whether you’re mentally ready for this shift.

2. Complete an undergraduate premedical course

Some medical schools in Australia require from applicants specific premedical courses, such as medical technology or biomedicine. These undergraduate programs cover biology, chemistry, and other foundational knowledge to bridge your nursing background and medical school’s rigorous academic curriculum.

Since you’re already a nurse, there’s a good chance the medical school you’ll apply to accepts your undergraduate degree. Better yet, some medical schools, like the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne, accept applicants from non-medical-related fields like the arts.

3. Apply to medical schools

It’s time to apply for medical school. Start by thoroughly researching your prospective institutions’ admissions criteria and requirements.

Next, take the mandatory Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT®), which assesses your capacity to undertake high-demand studies in medicine. The minimum score you need to be eligible for application depends on your preferred institution and the competitiveness of its applicant pools, but most schools require a minimum score of 50 in all three test sections to apply to medical schools.

Applications are via the Graduate Entry Medical School Admissions System (GEMSAS). It’s a centralised online portal where you submit your medical school application to enter a postgraduate medicine program.

GEMSAS also makes finding medical schools easier based on the GPA calculations of these schools:

The University of Sydney and other unmentioned schools aren’t part of GEMSAS, so you must apply directly. However, they still require you to take the GAMSAT® exam. Other considerations when applying to medical schools include:

Interview

In addition to academic performance and GAMSAT® test scores, most medical schools may require you to undergo an interview. It’s an opportunity for you to showcase your interpersonal skills and professionalism.

Medicine portfolio

Some institutions, including the University of Notre Dame and the University of Wollongong, request a medicine portfolio as part of their application. In it, you may showcase your achievements and experiences relevant to a medical career, such as clinical experience, research projects, and volunteer work.

4. Finish medical school

Medical school typically lasts four to six years. During this period, you’ll undergo a comprehensive curriculum covering various disciplines, including anatomy, pharmacology, and pathology. You’ll also have an opportunity to gain hands-on experience through clinical rotations in different specialties and work alongside experienced healthcare professionals in hospital settings.

5. Take an internship position

The next step is to undertake a one-year internship at a hospital to mark your transition from an academic setting to clinical practice. Here, you’ll work under the supervision of senior doctors, practising everything you’ve learned about patient care, diagnostic procedures, and treatment planning. You’ll also rotate through different hospital settings, so it’s an excellent chance to find your specialty.

Registration with the Medical Board of Australia is necessary at this point. For your internship, the registration will be a provisional type, and will become a general registration upon completion.

6. Have general registration with the Medical Board of Australia

. General registration signifies that you’ve met the necessary training, competence, and professionalism standards to provide medical care. It’s renewable annually and is valid up to 30 September, so make sure to renew your registration by that date every year. The national fee for general registration is AUD $1,500. The medical board also requires a fee of AUD $30 for late renewal of general registration.

7. Work as a resident medical officer (RMO)

Once you have completed your internship, you are now a fully-fledged doctor. However, you must work as a resident medical officer (RMO) for two to three years to prepare you for independent practice. This involves undertaking rotations in different hospital departments to gain clinical skills and knowledge.

To further develop your competencies, you can try locum work as it gives you more variety in your professional life. Locum placements can last anywhere between a few hours to a few months and allow you to travel to and work in clinics, hospitals, and medical centres in different regions.

8. Train for a specialisation

If you decide to become a specialist, you must enter registrar training after completing work as a RMO.

. Your program will depend on the specialty you choose. For instance, to become a surgeon, you could follow the Surgical Education and Training (SET) program from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS). Meanwhile, to specialise in oncology, you must take up the Advanced Training in Medical Oncology program.

Take Your First Steps Towards Becoming a Doctor

The nurse-to-doctor transition in Australia is a rewarding journey but requires dedication and commitment to lifelong learning. Follow the steps above to start your path towards becoming a doctor.

When you finally become a doctor, don’t hesitate to contact Australian Medical Placements, a leading medical recruitment agency in Australia for over 30 years. Our team of recruitment experts and comprehensive network of healthcare providers nationwide can instantly connect you to a suitable position and institution.

Contact us to learn more!

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