[AMA] I Am an Australian Medical Student - Ask Me Anything

Hey all,

Been using this site since I was teenager to snap up good deals. Always see these AMA's and I thought it'd be interesting to do one myself since people seem to always have quirky questions for me.

Ask Away!

closed Comments

    • +1

      Get a higher GPA.

    • +5

      I would consider doing another degree just to improve your gpa. Not much you can do about it. A person in my course graduated from high school with a 60 atar at 18 knowing he wanted to study medicine. 10 years laters and an 2 bachelors and 3 masters later in he finally got in.. Not saying you need 5 degrees but you do need to find a way to get the gpa.

      • Thanks man, I hope my nursing degree would help

      • Wow… 2 Bachelors and 3 masters degrees… you'd hope that he would earn bank in the future to pay off that student debt…

        • He is a really lucky guy to have a parent that helps him out a lot. Born to a single mum who is a surgeon.

    • How low is your GPA? I'm happy to provide advice about getting in medicine. (I no longer do entry to medicine tutoring but did once upon a time)

      • Just 4.5 man, fairly low in postgrad

        • 4.5 simply isn't enough to be honest :/ As imAfunnyGuy said you do need a good GPA.
          Even at 5 is a stretch

          Alternatively, try do a masters/PhD to a) lower the threshold into med and b) improve your GPA. In having said that though, I'm not sure if you'd be a good PhD candidate (as when they're doing scholarships - almost all PhDs get scholarships), they do take into account your GPA heavily.

          • @diazepam: Thanks man

            • @Yaren24: Does art degree count as GPA?

              • +1

                @Yaren24: From knowledge, I think any university degrees would contribute to GPA.

                • @DardyMate: Thanks man, I qm working full time I think I can only study online, not sure if there are online courses can.boost my GPA

                  • @Yaren24: Hey Yaren, realised you did nursing too. Flick me a PM, we'll talk there yeah? Seems like were on the same page wanting to pursue medicine too.

      • Carrib med school

  • Is the tuition fee really expensive? If so how do you pay for it?

    • +4

      Beauty of The Australian Government. Hecs and fee help. Medicine is the same as another degree in terms of fees. I think some full fee medschools are about $200k tho . I do high school tutoring for pocket money. Rely on my parents to help out with the rent for my place (I will pay them back I swear!). I live in an apartment with 2 house mates. Will graduate with a bout $80k in HECS debt, but should be able to pay it off slowly over time. In terms.

      • Cool. Hope everything will go well.

      • I'd probably strike-out the phrase "The Australian Government" as the current party in power did try to de-regulate uni fees which would have resultsed in massively increased course costs to $250,000+ (based on full-fee costs). The main issue with this is not the overall cost per se but in further pushing away medical students from low SES backgrounds from applying and pushing doctors, once graduated, to practice in higher paying specialties in metropolitan areas (there is a lot of research to show that higher costs of study push doctors away from lower paying areas of medicine i.e. rural and regional practice, geriatrics, GP etc) where they are in relative short supply. Have a look at the US system to see the effects of massive student loans - you basically have lower than ever acceptance rates of students from poorer backgrounds or POC.

        That said, the HECS system is decent, you don't really need to stress about the cost of uni. It's just the cost of living while studying which is a burden in itself, especially when you do rural rotations and hence can't work. Other cost of living issues include spending anywhere from 30-60 hours in the hospital each week plus study (some rotations are great and you can fit the study in while at the hospital, others expect you to shadow the team the entire time). Managing all the extra-curricular activities to get a competitive CV for job applications (let alone specialty training pathway applications in PGY2-3) often makes it very difficult if you don't have flexible work hours too.

  • If you had free university education do you think you would more likely bulk bill? With your university debt do you think you will be able to mix bulk billing and charge if you become a JP or specialist? Anyway specialists have saved my life many times and I think most people trust doctors more than many other professions- use the trust and your intellect wisely

    • Haven't really thought that far ahead to be honest. I think it really depends on many factors so I can't really say right now. Money has never really driven me so I guess I'd have to say bulk billing. A lot of specialists tend to do something like 3 days public 2 days private. I know my personal gp recently went from 5 days public to 1 day private as his kid is starting year 12 so he wants to be there to support him. Hope that answers your question.

      • The choice to go private vs bulk billing often hinges on frustration rather than greed.

        Only a couple of very entrepreneurial colleagues left public/BB because of financial consideration. Many had issues with constant audits due to patient complaints regarding anything and everything but the medicine.

        After weighing up the amount of time preparing, fretting and responding to the audits, they just sell up the BB surgeries and/or leave public hospitals.

        The upside with private is twofold - you won't be responding to pedantic red tape errors and patients are actually far more polite even knowing they are paying in full.

  • What are your favourite subjects/areas of study, and which subjects do you dislike?

    • In terms of what I don't like depends on the lecturer. I find all the subjects pretty interesting. If a lecturer is reading from a powerpoint with information they copied out of a textbook then its pretty sad.

  • I just got my ear butcherd by resident doc to remove benign cyst.

    It was clearly her first time she even sliced her finger during the surgery and ask me if I had HIV in a very nervous manner.

    How many surgeries go wrong in this manner?

    I can very easily imagine new doctors slicing nerve or two by accident

    • So what's your ear like now Shrek?

    • -1

      That is surprising. In my experience the new GPs are keen on referring everything possible to a specialist. Very reluctant to cut. Benign cyst would be turfed to a skin cancer and wound clinic.

      I doubt the young docs even know how to use a sphygmomanometer.

      • depends on each GP's interest - you just have to find one. a lot dont do it due to economic reasons. usually the practice makes a loss on equipment with the paltry sum they get from % of medicare billings on bulkbilled procedures

    • Not too sure on the numbers and there's a still a while till I am a resident. From the sounds of it, should have been supervised by a specialist?

  • Congratulations on your achievements to date. I'm sure it's no doubt a direct reward for the effort and discipline that you have put in.

    I have a question about the mindset of med students and the competitive landscape of medicine.

    Q.
    Is the reality of there only being a small chance of landing your target specialisation a really mentally taxing part of the 12-15 year journey?

    Also, does the competition for specialisations hamper the collegiality of the cohort as you and your peers are in a pretty stiff compo for a very small amount of almost unrealistically attainable places?

    • +1

      In terms of collegiality we have a really close knit cohort. Everyone is always willing to help and there is almost 0 competition. Everyone is pretty study hungry so people are always willing to help. The idea of getting a speciality spot is something that does concern me but its a reality that everyone is facing. There is competition in every industry. No point getting stressed out but sth I can not change. I would much rather work hard and obtain my place.

      • Thank you for your insight. Good luck; I hope you nail it!

  • How prevalent is the drug taking culture for exam performance and studying amongst med students?

    • +1

      At my university I haven't really seen it too much. There are probably 1-2 people that might take it. People tend to be pretty proud of where they are at and want to be in the course on their own merit. The same reason the median for our exams are like 70-80% (the cohort above had medians of like 50-60), people only need to pass but there is a good feeling about working hard and doing well. It does happen at other places. Saw it a lot in high school.

      • +2

        i think you'd be suprised by the amount of people with adult ADHD / narcolepsy ;) - you should get what i mean if you're in your clinical years

  • Favourite general medicine textbook?

  • +1

    I heard that GP's "only study nutrition for about 3 hours". Is this true?

    • Consume less calories. Eat less meat. Eat an apple a day.

      There is not much you need to know about nutrition, as most studies are in vitro and funded by industry

      • Consume less calories

        Not if you're lifting heavy and trying to put on mass.

        Eat less meat.

        If you're aiming to live a long time, yeah.
        Not if you're trying to bulk up and don't care about living past 80.

        Depends on your goals.

        Eat an apple a day.

        There's no medical basis for this. I'd rather avoid the fructose.

        I actually want to know if GPs have a lot of training regarding nutrition.
        I get conflicting information from different GPs.

        Some of them say what you said (even "an apple a day") while another told me "you don't need fruit, only veggies".

    • +1

      I think if you are wanting diet advice, a great op is a dietician over a gp. They too had to study for years and are experts on the subject matter. In a clinical setting dieticians are the ones making meal plans for patients (treatment of eating disorders). There is a difference between a nutritionist and a dietician. Dieticians often have a bachelors in science and a master in dietetics. From a medical student stand point I have definitely studied nutrition for more than 3 hours.

  • i have saved and sent this entire thread to the bishop

  • +1

    Is it anything like the TV show Scrubs?

    • SO much. Laughcry so much.

    • Scrubs is probably the most accurate medical show.

    • Great mix of accuracy and irony

  • How do medicos get aroused ? Even more curious to know if naked bodies do anything to stimulate someone who keeps seeing living/dead bodies day in/out ?

    • Docs don't see dead bodies day in/out :O, unless you're a mortician, in which case you don't see living day in/out.

      Last actual dead person i saw was like 3 months ago, after an unsuccessful met call, not a daily or even monthly occurance.

      The last good looking patient i had vomitted on me

    • +1

      After a while you start to value qualities and general health way above looks. Looks are just random genetic variations. Bodies are bodies. Brains all look the same, blood is all the same colour. Everyone more or less worries and grieves for the same things. People of all walks make good and bad choices. 99% of bodies aren't attractive in the Hollywood sense, nor are they lit the same way.

      In a very unscientific sense, chemistry is chemistry, that transcends what you see with your eyes and true attraction happens in spite of, not because of how people look.

    • Hasn't really crossed my mind like that. I think I agree with MissG in the sense I probably have developed a much greater emphasis on personality? hard to say really.

  • Do you feel like your fellow medical are less self-aware of their personality traits?

    • Not at all. Feel like people are pretty self aware of how they act. I think there are probably more evident groups of personalities that you find if you were to compare a group of medical students to say a group of law students.

  • +1

    Not a question. Just wishing you the best of luck.it can be a rough career sometimes, but people talk it up more than it actually is (instead of putting effort into improving their knowledge). It's a privelage that patients trust us when they are most vulnerable. Study hard and pay attention when your in clinical years. When a senior asks questions it means they are interested in your improvement, not to make you feel inadequate. At the end of the day only you are responsible for your own learning, you can't simply pay for it. Learn hard for your patients, take your time and have a life outside of the hospital. I'm less than 2 years from finishing my surgical training and it never gets easier, but the job still makes me smile everyday.

    • Thanks heaps for the kind words. Im looking forward to the challenges to come.

  • What percentage of doctors in Australia are GPs? I heard somewhere recently that it was 75% in Australia and only 25% in the US, which sounds crazy. Is that even close to the truth?

    • -2

      Dunno whats so hard about it. If you are able to spell Panadol, you are almost on the way to be able to practice :p

    • +1

      Honestly no clue, probably have to look that one up on google. GP is arguably the most important type of doctor so I'd assume it would be a higher proportion.

  • GPs and Paeds can diagnose MH conditions which is great, but I'm curious; how much time do you guys spend learning to use the DSM and MH assessments?

    • 6-9 week psych term in med school and more on the job training as a gp registrar

      • Wow, that's a big difference to the work involved in becoming a registered psyc… but I guess you guys dont do treatment, just assessment/diagnosis/es.

  • Did they teach you how to spread the 'bad news' to patient or how to communicate to patients? I've always wondered if doctors get trained/taught to use or avoid specific words and the language/tone.

    • When I was in med school we had to do classes on breaking bad news. To be honest I don't really put any of it into practice any more as I think you develop a style that works for you over time. Better than nothing to start out, and I can't really think of a better way to teach it than they did. We had simulated sessions first with other students, and then with simulated patients. The man I was assessed on was planning a family, but is infertile. He cried a lot.

    • Yes, this is the training video.

      https://youtu.be/Tt-tG6ufH90?t=125

    • +1

      Yeah at my university before you start clinical years we have weekly mock consultations with simulated patients (actors). Some of these were an opportunity to challenge us students in a situation were you would have to break bad news. Not too much of an emphasis on it though, its sth that would come with experience.

    • +1

      You get more when you do specialist training too for certain specialties. Mainly with actors. Get it wrong and they go right off at you in character.

    • I work in intensive care and I see this as a really problematic area in modern medicine. I think students and trainees don't have enough instruction / scenario practice and often they have to learn quickly on the job, which doesn't suit everyone (not everyone picks up this skill easily). People expect a lot these days and they often come in with quite a defensive attitude, so it's important for doctors to know exactly how to address this. I would love to see it better taught during training

  • biggest fear for me is if we are organ donors… if you see that someone had an accident but you could die, or 85% chance of dying… or higher ( but docs could save it) , if you get informed that the person is a organ donor…would you try hard to save one or let it go and save 10-15 maybe?

    • +1

      A great question that could take up at least an hour of discussion. The short answer is no, we would still try and save that persons life. There are plenty of reasons for this from the Hippocratic oath to just the reality of it. If you are in an emergency room and someone has come in from a car crash are you going to rush them to get treatment to try and stabilise them or are you gonna check first if they are an organ donor? It is a great discussion and I'd love to see if any of the residents, registrars or consultant in this thread have any experience with something like this.

      • yes i agree! Lets talk about this one! :) I think it is a great thing to donate your organs but again… lets debate about it because there are doctors and doctors, hospitals and hospitals etc….

      • +4

        The answer is absolutely try to save the life, regardless of organ status. It's why we went into this job. The doctors doing the saving (i.e. emergency, anaesthetics and critical care) have trained for that, to try absolutely everything they can think of. No one ever wants to have that discussion with hopeful families, that the patient hasn't survived. It's hard on everyone. The medical team (not just doctors, it's a big team) like to win. They like to be the people that saved the life, that gets to watch the patient get well enough to go home. And those doctors are not the same ones who treat the patients who need the transplants, so there is no vested interest there. The organ donation discussion really only happens after it's very clear that the patient is not going to survive and the way that is measured is quantitative - it's not a judgment call that someone isn't going to make it, it's mostly really very obvious.

        The other thing I'd add is that when you're trying to resuscitate someone, time is brain or time is muscle. The longer it takes you to revive someone, the greater the damage is going to be to the brain or heart. So persisting for another ten minutes may restart a heart but it may consign the survivor to a life of near total-disability, often stuck on a breathing machine forever, or unable to eat or walk or talk ever again. Or only be able to walk a few steps before getting so breathless they feel like they're going to die…for the rest of their life. So as you go on with a resuscitation, you're always thinking, am I saving a life or destroying one? (Although mercifully I'm not in that situation much anymore). There are things worse than death. We can do a lot in medicine, perhaps too much. Prolonging life at all costs is a 'be careful what you wish for' scenario because if not done without care for someones wishes and values, you end up consigning them to a long life of pain and suffering. That said, when people are revived quickly they can do very well so we should always try. It's the how long for that matters. The doctors dealing with that question every day and the doctors downstream who are dealing with the outcomes of that question every day are the ones you want answering that question.

        Also be aware that even if you are an organ donor, families can always deny it anyway.

    • If anything we'd try harder, not less. If you're going to die as an organ donor we need you to die with functioning organs. If we just let you die your organs will go with you and we've helped no one. We'll be looking after you carefully even after you're completely brain dead. Saving your organs and saving you tend to go hand in hand, but sometimes the brain can't recover.

  • Firstly, congratulations on your achievements and thank you for the AMA.

    My son wants get into medicine to be a psychiatrist. He just finished his third year of pharmacy and plans to complete his fourth year. His GPA is just under 6.5 and his first attempt at Gamsat was 68 (he has time for another try). His aim was always UQ, but we’ve heard from several sources (some very credible) that Griffith is producing better Drs than UQ. Have you heard anything along those lines?

    • Griffith seems like a perfectly fine course and produces perfectly fine doctors. I don't notice any significant difference in my residents based on what uni they're from. I deal more directly with UQ as I lecture with them, and they seem to be putting some good effort into updating the course based on our feedback.

    • We need more psychiatrists!!!
      Basically you can't see public psychiatrist unless you are close to needing hospitalisation in many parts of Australia.
      It's terrible.

  • Thanks for all the comments and insights - my input is to urge people considering a career in medicine to think hard about the commitment required - not just the years of study but the hard grind and responsibilities afterwards. A young family member (now 30) studied hard for 8 years at Uni (4 yrs science, 4 yrs medicine) before graduating, has for the last 4 years worked ridiculous stressful hours at hospitals with little social life and with the real spectre of losing career and liberty if things go wrong (see recent UK manslaughter case against a young doctor accused of making a mistake when the boss was unavailable for advice). For all this, the family member has no job security (one year contracts only), has to deal with ignorant and unsympathetic administrators, earns far less than their schoolmates who studied law or economics or engineering, spends tens of thousands each year on training courses linked to the desired professional pathway and has so far had no success in getting onto that pathway. High levels of job satisfaction can be there for young doctors but so can there be exhaustion, frustration, risk and burnout. The hospital system relies on young doctors putting up with quite unreasonable demands and with (literally) unsafe practices- thof course e majority of them survive but a significant number do not. Success requires resilience and a pretty good ability to detach - but too much detachment of course means too little empathy.

    • Thanks for all the comments and insights - my input is to urge people considering a career in medicine to think hard about the commitment required - not just the years of study but the hard grind and responsibilities afterwards. A young family member (now 30) studied hard for 8 years at Uni (4 yrs science, 4 yrs medicine) before graduating, has for the last 4 years worked ridiculous stressful hours at hospitals with little social life and with the real spectre of losing career and liberty if things go wrong (see recent UK manslaughter case against a young doctor accused of making a mistake when the boss was unavailable for advice). For all this, the family member has no job security (one year contracts only), has to deal with ignorant and unsympathetic administrators, earns far less than their schoolmates who studied law or economics or engineering, spends tens of thousands each year on training courses linked to the desired professional pathway and has so far had no success in getting onto that pathway. High levels of job satisfaction can be there for young doctors but so can there be exhaustion, frustration, risk and burnout. The hospital system relies on young doctors putting up with quite unreasonable demands and with (literally) unsafe practices- the majority of them survive but a significant number do not. Success requires resilience and a pretty good ability to detach - but too much detachment of course means too little empathy.

    • Thank you this is a very honest and valuable insight. As a doctor I get all the stereotypes like people think I earn a bucketload and enjoy high societal status whatever that means. Most people roll their eyes when I say it's genuinely difficult for some doctors to find jobs. Few people are willing to listen to doctors real stresses in employment opportunities, career progression, income security, competition, threat of litigation/complaints and general stress relating to dying/dead patients.

  • Based on my personal observation, many undergrad students in the medical and dental fields come from an Asian cultural background.

    1. Do you think that this is a healthy mix as it doesn't seem to reflect the current society in general (where Australia is still mostly Caucasian, but will likely change in a generation or so)?
    2. Do you see a lot of your peers where they have been "forced" to do the degree? There was an episode of Insight at SBS, where they discuss the preference from migrant parents for their kids to be lawyers, doctors or dentists.
    3. Related to point 2, what is your view on people being pressured by their families to choose a medical degree? The Insight episode at SBS discussed how many of these young people are actually depressed.

    Thanks
    Note: The questions above may be controversial for some people, but I am just asking them to get another point of view.

    • those demographics get higher TER scores and their families definitely do push them to study hard, provide tutors, and study many more hours per week than the general population.

      I do not like the US system where the colour of your skin gets you into a degree because your 'race' is disadvantaged. If you were actually one of the disadvantaged ones you would still not get in.

      If non asians want to get into prestigious degrees, they have the same opportunity as everyone else.

      • I do agree that the Australian system gives the same opportunity for everyone (even though some may argue that international students are slightly advantaged… At least that was when i went to uni 20 yrs ago where international admission had a slightly less TER requirement)

        I am actually thinking about this from a perspective on whether this is a good thing overall. The insight episode I referred to in my original comment discussed this, where many children of first generation migrants are expected to do med, dental or law. It also talks about cases where this has caused extreme level of stress on the children.

        As a first generation migrant myself, i can see where this perception of doing "prestigious" degree is coming from as i see it in from my own extended family overseas. However, i asked the question as it would be interesting to hear an opinion from a med student.

        • +1
          1. I don't quite understand what you are trying to say here. I don't see the relevance of needing to have caucasian doctors??? Are you trying to say we need more white doctors?? Because that seems quite racist. I think we need more rural and indigenous health practitioners as there is a reason behind why but apart from that I don't think there is any problem in medical student spots being awarded to those that worked their asses off to get in.

          2. I personally don't know anyone doing med that didn't want to do med. I think some people do med because nothing else appealed to them so they just went with med but I don't think anyone was "forced" into it. In asian culture respect for what the parents want is important but there is not a single person I know who is that scared of their parents that they would study that hard and go through that extent to get in.

          3. I don't think pressuring your child to do med works because of the sheer difficulty of what it takes to get in. That drive to do well needs to be natural. If anything I would think a parent would just be pushing their child away. At least in this generation if someone is getting the marks to get into med then they have the wit to do what they want (purposefully fail the umat or the interview??). Overall things have changed a lot over the last 20 years. In terms of wanting to do law I think that is a different discussion. I don't think people are pressured into law per say its more like most people who put in the effort in school are getting into a law degree at some university (law is like an 70 atar at some uni's) and there is this misconception that law is a highly paid job which isn't entirely accurate. From the people that I know a lot of them do law because it is "the go to business degree", the same way 90% of people go choose commerce. Pretty much what ends up happening is they transfer degrees until they figure out what they like.

          I went to a highly ranked primary school and a top 10 selective school and now I do medicine. I asked my asian parents to send me to math tutoring in high school because I wanted to do well to follow my dream and that meant getting help in an area I struggled with. My brother did not go to university yet is very successful in what he does and they treat us both exactly the same. Overall I probably have not experienced this 'pressure' you speak of. But what I can say is that I was surrounded by a lot of high achieving 'asians' and pretty much every single one of them had the same situation. I was also surrounded by caucasians which arguably had parents that put them under more stress than anyone else. So as an insider what happens in these "asian communities" I think a lot of talk is driven by people and the media being jealous or making excuse for other demographics not performing well. Everyone I know that did well wanted to do well.

          Not sure if that answered your question as I am not entirely sure what you are trying to ask. Overall I don't think there is any issue. The spots are going to the people that are working hard for them.

          • @imAfunnyGuy: Thank you. I think you have given me a good insight of your opinion on this.

            In reference to point (1), I apologise for not being clear, but it is probably more of a philosophical question. I am not suggesting that we need more white/brown/black/yellow doctors.

            Where I was coming from is that medical care involves the clinical care and some sort of emotional/psychological care. In terms of the emotional aspect, I believe that the medical practitioner needs to be aware of cultural values/norms of the patients.

            My personal experience with the health system in Australia and overseas is that medical practitioners are sometimes not trained in this very well. For example, there are very common rituals from Asian cultures on what a woman can/cannot do straight after giving birth.
            I have been many situations where I needed to explain certain things to health professionals (both here and overseas). The most common thread in these experiences are that if/when the doctors and patients are from the same cultural group, they can understand each other better as there is no need to explain some of these really unique cultural norms.
            One could say that in the end this happens in every profession, but I believe that this (being able to understand other cultural values) is very needed in the medical profession.

  • Do you think Private Health Insurance is a scam? Why?

    • +1

      Is not a scam. If you can afford it it is worth it. My mother when she was 45, the lens of her eye basically fractured this is something that happens to 70-80 year olds. On the public system she was told the waiting list was 3 years. Went to a private ophthalmologist and got it fixed the same week thanks to private health insurance. The situation is different for everyone but I personally believe that it is a must. The public system is great for big life threatening emergencies but for intricate treatments that require specialists private health insurance goes a long way.

      • How much would something like that cost if you are not insured but still wanted it done that week?

        • Was quoted at $12k

          • @imAfunnyGuy: Thanks. I think of that as about 6 years worth of premiums for the self insured.

            • @Providence: Did that quote include hospital fee as well? If not then it is such a rip off…

          • @imAfunnyGuy: Did that quote include hospital fee as well? If not then it is such a rip off…

      • I can second this.

        My mom recently did cataract surgery as well, did not have to wait at all, done in 4 weeks for both eyes. We only needed to pay a small gap fee to the ophthalmologist.

      • +1

        This is my pet hate about ophthalmologist and their system.

        The wait is 3 years on the public because they just want to do private and do not want to do public. The majority of eye surgeries are done in only a handful of hospitals. There is no reason why a little private hospital like Chatswood private hospital can have eye surgery and a major tertiary hospital like St George Hospital could not do it. The capacity for public eye surgery is too small compared to private.

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