Just like doctors, medical students are regulated under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW). This means:
- students must be registered with the Medical Board of Australia. This will be done through their university
- anyone can make a complaint about a student’s health
- a student’s education provider, another practitioner or a medical employer must make a mandatory notification to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency if they are concerned the student’s health impairment places the public at substantial risk of harm or substantially impacts their ability to undertake clinical training
- students must tell the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency if they have been
- charged with an offence punishable by 12 months' imprisonment or more
- convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment
- their registration as a student in a health profession in another country outside Australia has been suspended or cancelled.
A student is impaired when they suffer from a physical or mental condition which detrimentally affects or is likely to detrimentally affect their capacity to undertake clinical training.
Some conditions which may cause impairment:
- bipolar disorder
- eating disorders
- addiction/self-administration of prescription drugs
- Illicit drug use
- excessive alcohol use
- physical illness/disability (most commonly neurological).
The following things will help you look after your health and well-being:
- have a regular GP
- don’t self-diagnose
- ensure your immunisations are up to date
- play safely (follow the NHMRC alcohol guidelines/practise safe sex)
- avoid illicit drugs
- develop interests outside of medicine
- exercise regularly
- know where to go for help.
Some students worry that if they seek help, it will cause problems for their future medical career. However, if you feel yourself becoming anxious or unwell, it is better to seek help early than to hope you will get better on your own. This is the best thing you can do to ensure your future success.
Places where you can seek help include:
- University health service
- University medical faculty
- Clinical supervisor
- Medical Council of NSW
- Doctors Health Advisory Service (NSW Help Line 02 9437 6552)
- Medical indemnity insurer
- General practitioner/psychologist
- Support organisations - Beyond Blue, Lifeline, Black Dog Institute, Reachout, RUOK, Mood Gym
Complaints about medical students are referred to the Medical Council’s health pathway. The student is likely to be assessed and, if required, supported around their health needs with the aim of helping them return to study and/or clinical training as soon as possible.
The Council received a notification about a 22-year-old medical student who had been admitted to hospital following repeated acts of self-harm. The student entered the Council’s health program and was assessed by a Council-appointed psychiatrist. After reading the psychiatrist’s report, an Impaired Registrant’s Panel placed conditions on the student’s registration to ensure they accessed ongoing health treatment. The student’s medical studies were not affected. After making steady progress in both health treatment and at university, the student was able to work as an intern.