Friday, November 9, 2012

Why International Medical Students Deserve a Place in Australian Hospitals

English: International Students
International Students (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Professor Lesleyanne Hawthorne, Professor - International Health Workforce, Australian Health Workforce Institute, at University of Melbourne, The Conversation:

Amid Australia’s ongoing doctor shortage, the health system risks losing dozens of Australian-trained, foreign-born doctors because of a shortage of intern places.

The Australian Medical Students Association estimates the system needs 182 intern places to ensure all international students can finish their medical training and gain full registration as doctors.

These intern, (or post-graduate year one) places, are based in hospitals, which are run by the states. But the Commonwealth also bears some funding responsibility for medical training. The Commonwealth, state and territory health ministers are expected to discuss who should pay and potential solutions to the problem when they meet tomorrow in Perth.

Rise of international student migration

Over the past decade, international students have emerged as a prized and contested human capital resource. OECD and select Asian countries are expanding their international student flows, through global promotion strategies and regional migration programs, aligned with lower entry requirements, including for medical degrees.

International students have been immensely responsive to these migration options. In 1975, 600,000 international students were enrolled abroad, compared with 3.4 million in 2009. By 2025, it is predicted there will be 7.2 million international students studying globally.

A recent British Council survey of 153,000 international students confirmed opportunities for migration exert an extraordinary impact on the choice of study destination. While students sought a high quality, internationally recognised education, the scope to remain and work was found to “massively impact” both decisions and expectations.

In 1999, following the removal of a three-year eligibility bar, international students became immediately eligible to migrate to Australia. Within six years of the policy change, 52% of skilled migrants were selected onshore.

By 2010, 630,000 international students were enrolled in Australian courses (all fields and sectors). Of these, 18,487 were undertaking health degrees, including over 3,000 medical and 10,000 nursing students. International medical student graduates grew 223% from 1999 to 2009, compared with 52% growth in Australian domestic graduates.

International medical students

In 2009, the majority of international medical students were enrolled at Monash, Melbourne, Queensland, New South Wales and Sydney universities. Their source countries were highly diverse - most notably Malaysia (1,134 students), Singapore (577), Canada (437), the United States (84) and Botswana (74), followed by South Korea, Brunei, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

These international students achieve stellar rates of immediate employment and are highly attractive to local employers. As demonstrated by yet-to-be-published research conducted for the Medical Deans of Australia, 45% of international students plan to remain in Australia when they commence their studies. By their final year, 78% accept intern places (virtually all those who are not scholarship students sponsored by their home governments).

Australia’s Graduate Destination Survey from 2009-2011 reveals their employment outcomes to be near identical to those achieved by domestic students (99.6% working full-time at four months compared with 99.7%).

The source country was almost irrelevant, with 100% of Canadian, US, Malaysian, Indonesian, Taiwanese, Norwegian and Botswanan students fully employed, compared with 97% from Singapore and 89% from China.

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