What does the Medical Council have to do with medical regulation?
In partnership with the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC), we receive and manage complaints about registered doctors and medical students in NSW. We take a holistic case management approach to ensure registered doctors maintain appropriate professional standards and remain fit to practise. The Council will act to protect the public if a doctor may be practising unsafely or placing the public at risk and is responsible for maintaining the trust and confidence of the public in the medical profession.
Medical regulation in NSW is a complex arrangement. More information about the link between the national and state regulators, can be found here.
How is the Medical Council relevant to NSW medical students?
Just like medical practitioners based in NSW, medical students registered as studying medicine at NSW universities are regulated by the Medical Council of NSW. However, you won’t find the Council getting involved with assessment of students’ performance.
As future doctors, the Medical Council becomes involved with students who are suffering extremely poor health to the point of impairment or whose conduct may erode trust in the profession.
A medical student’s university, a registered health practitioner or medical employer must make a mandatory notification to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) 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 may also choose to notify their university or Council of health difficulties they are experiencing if they or their treating practitioner feel they are impaired.
In Australia, registered health professional students, including medical students who commit a serious offence, punishable by 12 months or more imprisonment must notify Ahpra (who will notify Council) under mandatory notification obligations. In addition, students who have had their registration suspended or cancelled in another country should advise Ahpra.
If I seek help because I am suffering poor health, will I lose my place at medical school?
Firstly, less than 1% of students come to the attention of the Medical Council for health or conduct concerns.
However, the Council understands that students may be concerned about potential stigma of admitting they need help, or about losing their place at medical school.
Admitting you are struggling as a medical student takes courage, but it is important to remember that when a health notification is made to the Medical Council our focus is not punitive. Instead, Council is focused on helping ensure students who are impaired address and remediate any health problems so that they can continue their studies and become successful and skilled doctors in future. However, as the pressure on doctors increases after graduation, it is easier to assist medical students than to help doctors who could have addressed these health issues before graduation.
How do I know if I might be impaired?
A student is impaired when they suffer from a physical or mental condition which detrimentally affects their ability to undertake clinical training.
Some conditions which may cause impairment:
- Major depression
- bipolar disorder
- eating disorders
- addiction/self-administration of prescription drugs
- Illicit drug use
- excessive alcohol use
What happens if a complaint is made or I admit I need help?
Medical students who have a complaint made are 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.
Does the Medical Council need to know about my health issues if they are well controlled and not interfering with my studies?
No, many students and medical practitioners have underlying health conditions, including mental health conditions, that are well managed and do not need to be reported to the Medical Council. Generally speaking, these doctors and students engage positively and regularly with their treating practitioners and seek additional assistance rather than trying to conceal their health issues.
What is the best thing to do if I become extremely unwell?
Some medical students worry that if they seek help, it will cause problems for their future career. However, this is the most effective move to help ensure your future success.
Places where you can seek help include: