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Training program brings doctors to Wide Bay

Dr Ajith Thampi training doctors wide bay
Dr Ajith Thampi says the workplace based assessment, which will soon expand to Bundaberg Hospital, has been beneficial.

A vital assessment program for internationally trained doctors is set to encourage more doctors to the Wide Bay when the program expands to Bundaberg Hospital later this year.

The workplace based assessment (WBA) pathway provides an alternative assessment process for International Medical Graduates (IMGs) to obtain general registration to practice in Australia.

The WBA program has been running successfully in Hervey Bay Hospital for nine years and the expansion to Bundaberg Hospital is a welcome addition.

Hervey Bay Hospital WBA Clinical Lead Dr Ajith Thampi said the program allowed the doctors to work under supervision with real patients.

He said they leave the program more well-rounded, having been supported through challenging, real-life experiences.

“All International Medical Graduates (IMGs) are required to undergo a comprehensive, mandatory assessment process before they receive registration to practice in Australia.”

This process includes a theory exam and a clinical exam.

“The clinical exam uses mock scenarios with actors pretending to be patients in clinical scenarios, and as part of their assessment, IMGs need to demonstrate how they would hypothetically provide care to these patients.

“However this does not always provide an accurate reflection of their skills in a clinical environment” Dr Thampi said.

The WBA replaces the clinical exam for IMGs who choose it.

It's a 12 month placement in a hospital, where the doctors work under close supervision on real patients in real scenarios.

The WBA tests – over an extended period – whether the candidate has adequate and appropriate clinical skills and professional qualities to practice safely within the Australian healthcare environment.

While the WBA program is a much longer process, requiring more structure, trainers, increased supervision, and resourcing than a mock clinical exam, the outcomes are very impressive.

The program has resulted in a dramatic increase in length of stay for participating doctors, from eight months prior to the WBA implementation to nearly three years.

In addition, 22% of Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service’s WBA graduates continue to serve the community as local GPs across the region.

There is high demand for the program, which has become a valuable recruiting tool according to Dr Thampi.

“In regional Queensland, we experience some real challenges with attracting and retaining workforce – both local and overseas trained doctors,” Dr Thampi said.

Program training doctors in Wide Bay

Already, 104 doctors have successfully completed the WBA program in Hervey Bay with another 28 candidates in various stages of the 12-month program.

WBHHS maintains an extensive pool of over 50 trained assessors who volunteer their time to support the development of doctors on the program.

For supervisors like Dr Thampi, it is rewarding to be involved with the program.

“Our doctors leave the program with hands on knowledge and real-world experience.

We receive applications from very experienced, proficient and qualified IMGs who want to participate in this program”, Dr Thampi said.

“We recently had an ICU junior doctor position filled by a highly experienced, intensive care and anaesthetics IMG.”

“This program is better for the doctors, it's better for the patients and it’s better for the hospital,” he said.

The first WBA candidates will commence in Bundaberg Hospital in October 2023.

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