Hunter scheme to boost medical skills

A TRAINING program pioneered in the Hunter has bolstered safety standards for overseas-trained doctors and helped address a clinician shortage, its director says.

Health professionals from around Australia will meet in Newcastle today and tomorrow to learn about the Hunter New England Health Workplace-Based Assessment Program. The Australian Medical Council workshop will be held at the Crowne Plaza hotel.

Program director Kichu Nair said about 20 to 30 per cent of Australia's doctors were trained overseas.

"Because of a doctor shortage we rely on them," he said.

To practise in Australia, international medical graduates traditionally do an Australian Medical Council exam, which involves written components and a half-day clinical section with role play patients, Professor Nair said.

With the workplace-based program, practical assessments of communication, team work, and clinical and thinking skills are done on-the-job over six months with senior doctors providing feedback.

"Basically it means you're assessing them in the workplace over a period of time by multiple tools and multiple assessors," Professor Nair said.

"So we get a much better picture of the doctors.

"The feedback we get from people who have passed this process is [it's creating] much safer doctors."

Professor Nair said the program was helping Hunter New England Health retain staff, with 78 per cent of participants remaining with the health service.

"People used to come, maybe come here and work for one year, get registration and go back to Sydney or whatever," he said.

The program has a six-month waiting list.

In the past 18 months, 68 doctors have completed it, and another 14 are enrolled.

Professor Nair said a partnership with the University of Newcastle and co-operation of senior clinicians made the program possible.

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