Never stop dreaming: this international doctor made the move to Australia
I wish I’d found out about Medrecruit at that time. It may have made my life very different.
Making the move to Australia as an international doctor is a difficult one. There are lots of rules, regulations, and (expensive) exams in place which ensure an international doctor has all the skills and qualifications they need to work in Australia.
Doctors who completed their medical degree and training overseas are known as International Medical Graduates or IMGs in the Australian health system.
Can international doctors work in Australia?
To work in Australia, you have to make sure you’re eligible for medical registration through the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) first. There are a few different pathways, all of which have some complicated checkboxes to tick:
The Competent Authority Pathway is usually an option for doctors (specialist or non-specialist) who’ve completed their primary degree and/or training at an approved competent authority in the UK, USA, New Zealand or Ireland.
The Specialist Pathway is for overseas-trained specialists who satisfy all the experience, qualification and training requirements and standards set out by the Australian Medical Council and the World Directory of Medical Schools as a specialist or as someone who can fulfill a specialist-level position in an area of need. There’s an (expensive) assessment to do, which will let you know if you’re eligible.
Then there’s the Standard Pathway, for doctors who aren’t eligible for the other two pathways. But, again, they need to meet stringent requirements and their qualifications and training needs to be recognised by the Australian Medical Council and the World Directory of Medical Schools.
It’s a complicated picture. British- and Irish-trained doctors often have the easiest time through the pathways because the health care systems of those countries are relatively similar to Australia’s health care system. Finding out if you’ll be eligible for registration is not something a medical recruitment agency can do for you.
Why it’s hard for IMGs to get medical registration in Australia
Most doctors need to spend a lot of time (and money) perusing eligibility for registration. And eligibility doesn’t guarantee a job in Australia. We think IMGs are made of tough stuff and we’ve worked with fantastic doctors who’ve done their paperwork and made the move to Australia through hard work, determination and a lot of paperwork.
One such doctor is Dr Nay Lwin Htet. He graduated from med school in his home country of Myanmar in 2009, but he and his wife (who is also a doctor) had to wait for government sponsorship to begin training.
“For some reason, we had to wait for three years and nothing happened. As a young doctor, we had a huge dream of what we wanted to do. So, I started looking for alternative ways to progress my career.”
He and his wife signed up to work in rural areas of Malaysia, but dreamed of working in Australia, New Zealand or America, so he began exploring his options early.
“We both moved to a small town in East Malaysia (Sarawak) called Sarikei. We worked there for four years. It was a very small community. We became part of the community and after some time, we really did enjoy it – that made us delay migrating to Australia.”
Dr Nay’s story: finding a doctor job in Australia
The couple needed to sit Australia Medical Council (AMC) exams to make the move and pursue the Standard Pathway. Dr Nay says his wife is the smart one – she passed part two of the exams before he did and moved to Perth, WA in July 2016. Dr Nay followed a few months later, but had only passed part one of the exam and found finding a job very difficult. He spent thousands of dollars on exam fees (one exam can cost as much as $3,600 – sometimes more) and he became depressed and very stressed.
“I decided to start looking for a job. I sent hundreds of applications to hospitals around Australia. All I got was ‘No’. I wish I’d found out about Medrecruit at that time. It may have made my life very different.”
After months of job hunting, Dr Nay almost gave up. By chance, he met a lady who worked for the HR department of the Royal Perth Hospital, she recommended that he sit an English Test as part of his registration requirements.
“She is my life changer. I sat the English Test straight away and I went for an interview and got a job. I always send her a greeting at least once or twice a year because without her help, I may not have got to this stage that quickly.”
He started work on Limited Registration. With this kind of registration, doctors can only work for a limited number of years – so Dr Nay still had to pass an AMC clinical exam. He moved to Hervey Bay for workplace-based assessment but had to wait a further nine months to get onto the program.
He was there for two years and did complete his AMC journey – but spent many months away from his wife and their baby.
2020 was supposed to be the year everything came together for Dr Nay, but like many 2020 plans, Covid-19 messed things up. Dr Nay decided to quit his job to look after his one-year-old son while his wife completed her training program, but he still needed to find work to supplement their income.
“I signed up for a few locum agencies. They all are great but, I just couldn’t secure the right job. I spoke to one of my friends and he said, ‘just go with Medrecruit’, and I got in contact with Jake Martin.
“Starting from the moment that I answered my phone, the whole team has been so amazing. They work hard for me, to get whatever shifts I want. They are very professional and very humble, they love their jobs. They are just beautiful people. I have been working with Medrecruit for almost six months now and I don’t need to worry about jobs.”
IMG doctors in Australia
If you are an IMG looking to practice medicine in Australia the first step is to determine if your medical qualifications are recognised by the medical board of Australia. If they are then you will be able to one of many medical pathways to apply to APHRA for a medical license.
We’re thrilled to have been a happy part of Dr Nay’s story. He demonstrates that through determination, the Australian dream isn’t impossible.
Dr Nay will start his GP training in 2021 – best of luck!