How to become a Medical Practitioner

Medical practitioners diagnose physical and mental illnesses, disorders and injuries, and prescribe medications and treatment to promote or restore good health.

Personal requirements of a Medical Practitioner

  • Good communication skills
  • Self-confidence
  • Able to exercise high ethical standards
  • Able to relate to people
  • Compassionate towards others
  • Enjoy working with people
  • Able to cope with the physical demands of the job
  • A high degree of motivation and self-discipline

Education & Training for a Medical Practitioner

To become a medical practitioner you usually have to study medicine at university. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education with particularly good results. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics are normally required. Some universities offer medicine as a double degree and may have additional prerequisites. A number of universities in Australia offer degrees in medicine. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. For full details, refer to the entries on the website at www.goodcareersguide.com.au or university handbooks. Entry into these courses is highly competitive and is based on a combination of academic achievement, performance on the Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT) and a structured interview. The UMAT is a written test that assesses non-academic personal qualities. Alternatively, you can become a medical practitioner by completing a relevant bachelor degree, followed by a postgraduate qualification in medicine. Entry into the graduate-entry courses is based on prior completion of a bachelor degree, performance in the Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT) and a score resulting from a semi-structured interview. Studies in behavioural, social, biological and physical sciences, and humanities are likely to enhance performance in the test, and are offered at most universities.

Duties & Tasks of a Medical Practitioner

Medical practitioners may perform the following tasks:

  • examine the patient to determine the nature of the disorder or illness and record the patient’s medical information
  • order, perform and analyse laboratory tests, X-rays and other diagnostic images and procedures
  • provide overall care for patients, and prescribe and administer treatments, medications and other remedial measures
  • aid in the prevention of diseases and disorders by advising patients on diet, exercise, hygiene and general health
  • prescribe and administer medication and inoculate patients to prevent infectious or contagious diseases
  • provide pre-natal and post-natal care
  • report births, deaths and notifiable diseases to government authorities
  • arrange for patients to be admitted to hospital
  • refer patients to other medical specialists and exchange relevant medical details.

Working conditions for a Medical Practitioner

Medical practitioners are involved in a wide range of activities, including consultations, attending emergencies, performing operations and arranging medical investigations. When caring for patients, medical practitioners work with many other health professionals. They may also participate in and undertake research. Medical practitioners sometimes have to deal with unpleasant conditions due to a patient's illness or injury. Adopting strict hygiene practices is important. Depending on their area of specialisation, medical practitioners may have to work long, demanding and irregular hours. This may include working on weekends and at night or being on call 24 hours a day.

Employment Opportunities for a Medical Practitioner

Medical practitioners may work in private practice on their own, in partnership with another medical practitioner, in a group practice, in community health centres and in public hospitals. They work in cities, suburbs and rural towns. Opportunities for medical graduates depend on a variety of factors, including birth and death rates, population levels and movements, changing patterns of illness and injury, technological advances in health care, the trend towards preventative medicine, and the cost of treatment and health insurance to the patient. While most city areas and major towns are well supplied with medical practitioners, there are shortages in some city areas and in rural and remote locations.

Specialisations:


Addiction Medicine Practitioner

An addiction medicine practitioner deals with general issues of harm associated with the non-medical use of drugs, including the prevention of harm related to the use of non-medical drugs, management of acute drug-related problems, and rehabilitation of people who have become dependent on drugs.


Anaesthetist

An anaesthetist administers medications to patients to block the feeling of pain and other sensations, or to produce a deep state of unconsciousness that allows medical and surgical procedures to be undertaken.


Dermatologist

A dermatologist treats skin diseases such as eczema, acne, skin infections and psoriasis, using techniques such as ultraviolet light therapy, photodynamic therapy and laser treatment. They also detect and treat skin cancers.


Emergency Medicine Practitioner

An emergency medicine practitioner diagnoses and manages serious and life-threatening health problems in patients of all ages using a wide range of medical and surgical skills, as well as resuscitation techniques.


General Practitioner

A general practitioner provides health care to individuals and families in their communities. They coordinate the care of patients, provide advice and education about health care and refer patients to other specialists where necessary. General practitioners are often the first point of contact in matters of personal health.


Intensive Care Medicine Practitioner

An intensive care medicine practitioner diagnoses and administers intensive medical care for critically ill patients, often through the use of organ support systems. They provide ongoing care of critically ill patients.


Medical Administrator

A medical administrator manages departments or organisations responsible for health service delivery. They control administrative operations, such as budget planning and purchasing, service and facility planning, or operational policy development.


Obstetrician and Gynaecologist

An obstetrician provides medical care before, during and after childbirth. Gynaecologists diagnose, treat and assist in the prevention of disorders of the female reproductive system.


Occupational and Environmental Medicine Practitioner

An occupational and environmental medicine practitioner focuses on the effects of work on health and health on work. Their work includes prevention, research and investigation of workplace and environmental hazards that may cause an adverse impact on human health.


Ophthalmologist

An ophthalmologist diagnoses and treats diseases, injuries and deficiencies of the eye.


Paediatrician and Child Health Practitioner

A paediatrician and child health practitioner diagnoses and treats diseases of children from birth to early adolescence.


Pain Medicine Practitioner

A pain medicine practitioner focuses on the evaluation, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of persons in pain.


Palliative Medicine Practitioner

A palliative medicine practitioner studies and manages patients with active, progressive, far advanced disease, for whom the prognosis is limited and the focus of care is the quality of life.


Pathologist

A pathologist uses laboratory procedures to identify and diagnose the presence and stages of diseases and possible sources of infection in body tissues, fluids, secretions and other specimens.


Physician

A physician specialises in one of many branches of medicine, such as allergy, cardiology (treatment of heart disease), geriatrics (diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting elderly people), haematology (treatment of diseases of the blood and blood-forming tissues), internal medicine, neurology or rheumatology (treatment of arthritis).


Psychiatrist

A psychiatrist diagnoses and treats mental, emotional and behavioural disorders.


Public Health Medicine Practitioner

A public health medicine practitioner promotes health and the prevention of disease, illness and injury, the assessment of a community's health needs, and the provision of services to communities.


Radiation Oncologist

A radiation oncologist uses radiation to treat patients diagnosed with cancer and other diseases.


Radiologist

A radiologist diagnoses and treats diseases using radiant energies such as X-rays, ultrasound, gamma rays and radio waves.


Rehabilitation Medicine Practitioner

A rehabilitation medicine practitioner diagnoses, evaluates and treats adults and children with limited function as a consequence of disease, injury, impairment and/or disability.


Sexual Health Medicine Practitioner

A sexual health medicine practitioner promotes sexual health in the community, identifying and minimising the impact of sexual health problems through education, behaviour change, targeted medical screening, diagnostic testing and research.


Sport and Exercise Medicine Physician

A sport and exercise medicine physician promotes health through increased use of exercise and physical activity. They diagnose and treat medical conditions and injuries, and provide advice about safe exercise methods in order to prevent or treat illness.


Surgeon

Surgeons treat diseases, injuries and deformities by using a range of different methods and instruments, and may specialise in many areas such as cancer surgery, ophthalmology, orthopaedic surgery (bones and joints), otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose and throat), and plastic and reconstructive surgery.


Brain Surgeon


Cardiovascular Surgeon


Orthopaedic Surgeon


Plastic Surgeon

Additional Information
Following completion of the above courses, graduates must undertake one year of full-time employment (internship) at a recognised teaching hospital to be able to gain full registration as a medical practitioner with the Medical Board of Australia. Prior to commencing clinical placements, students will be required to undergo a National Police Check and a Working with Children Check, and provide a schedule of immunisations. It is a legal requirement for graduates to be registered with the Medical Board of Australia before being able to practise as a medical practitioner in any state or territory in Australia. For full details, visit their website. Entry to the various specialisations requires postgraduate study, experience in approved hospitals and the passing of examinations leading to membership of the appropriate professional college. Specialist training programs and examinations are administered by these colleges. Training standards for general practitioners are set by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. To become a general practitioner, you must become a fellow of the college. To become a fellow, you must complete an additional three years of general practice training following the intern year and pass an exam. Rural practice incorporates a further year of special rural skills training.
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