3 interesting places to practice medicine in Australia plus a brief overview of their healthcare system

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Australia is marvelous. And each state in this country holds its very own reason why. Often the landscape in each respective region is the cause of a lot of admiration. You've got vibrant red desert in one part of the country and turquoise coastline smattered with rainforests in another. Though not all people come solely for the sights. In fact, many locum tenens doctors come because they love the very experience of practicing medicine in Australia.

Why,
you ask? Well, the cross-cultural immersion alone is an experience of a lifetime. Doctors return to the U.S. reinvigorated in a sense; they look at medicine in a new light all thanks to the alternative perspectives offered by the Australian healthcare providers with whom they worked. Plus the ability to practice medicine in a unique healthcare system that's quite distinct from the U.S. system is also a huge benefit. Understanding how doctors deliver care not simply in a different country but in a different healthcare system is a rare opportunity.

To help you understand the healthcare system here Australia has both a public sector and a private. The public system is, well, publicly funded through general taxation. This ensures that all Australians have access to free or low-cost medical and hospital care also known as "Medicare". According to the Australian Government's Department of Health "almost 70% of total health expenditure in Australia is funded by government" where the federal government "contributes two-thirds of this and State, Territory and Local governments contribute the other third."

Just over half of all Australians have private health insurance, too (as reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics back in 2013). This is in addition to the Medicare they already have. Private health insurance covers access to private treatment in either public or private hospitals, with the intention of offsetting all or part of the cost of hospital and medical services. Some of the benefits of obtaining private health insurance are wait times can be shorter and patients have the ability to choose their doctor.

Overall, though, U.S. doctors who have practiced medicine in both countries have said they generally find the Australian system to be no better or worse than their native healthcare system, just different. Now that we've given you a bird's-eye view of the healthcare system here let's dive a bit deeper into what makes the locations below some of the most interesting places to practice medicine in Australia.

Northern Territory

Alice Springs is a small town in the Northern Territory often dubbed the gateway to Australia's outback. If you end up practicing medicine here you'll get a dose of the rural and remote life, in healthcare, culture and landscape. This makes for some interesting medical cases.

According to one of our doctors, Kathryn Starkey, MD, an OB/GYN who has worked in the Northern Territory in the past has said that the Aboriginal population does not fully embrace preventive medicine. She also said you'll likely treat some of the many immigrants from Asia and the Middle East but your USA training will ensure you're up to the task.

On your days off take a tour of Uluru nearby. What's is Uluru? It's a large, sacred sandstone formation protected by the Anangu (an Aboriginal people). In a word, it's stunning.

Tasmania

Tasmania's landscape and culture is without equal. Sure it shares similarities with mainland Australia but if you've been to both you'll know what we're talking about. Head to Ben Lomond National Park - a particularly captivating, craggy, mountainous region of Tassie that you're sure to love.

Rick Abbott, MD, an ER physician who has practiced medicine here before had this to say about the locum experience: "The ER was a great place to work. Because Australia is a national healthcare system, we had very little 'social safety net' to our practice and so we were a real ER. In other words, a very high proportion of our patients had an acute problem that required an acute intervention. We weren't trying to manage chronic disease that had nowhere else to go (as in the U.S.)."

Western Australia


Last but certainly not least is Perth. Vast vineyards, prime coastline and innumerable blue-sky days make up this coastal town. In the southwest corner of Western Australia you'll experience more a city life and less a rural community. Still it has a laidback culture.

In the hospital they're a "hard-working bunch" according to Kathryn Starkey, MD, who has also worked in Western Australia. "The hours are civilized, with morning report at 8:00 a.m., rounds at 8:30, clinics or surgery 9-12 and afternoon clinic or surgery from 1:00 until you go home at 4:00 p.m. Your call is 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. in Labor & Delivery, then the night person takes over and you go home. After a week of nights you generally have a week free."

Some last words of advice from Dr. Starkey: "A locum tenens assignment is the adventure of a lifetime; just keep your mind open, expect the unexpected, and learn ways to ‘be a good guest.'"

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