20 Dec 2022
The number of internationally trained practitioners arriving to work in Australia is rising back to pre-pandemic levels, supporting a surge in graduates and bolstering the nation’s largest ever health workforce.
A 41 percent increase in International Medical Graduates registrations in 2021-22 saw 2985 overseas trained doctors undergo vital qualification and safety checks to work in Australia, matching the levels seen before the COVID-19 pandemic shut international borders.
The number of Internationally Qualified Nurses and Midwives registered also rose 35 percent over the past year, with 4629 recruits arriving in 2021-22 directly through the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia processes or via the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition arrangement. The international nursing and midwifery registrations are now approaching the pre-pandemic level of 5,753 international registrations in 2018-19.
With record levels of practitioner graduates also registered last year, Australia’s health workforce has swelled beyond 850,000 practitioners for the first time and is now 14.5 percent larger than it was before the pandemic struck.
‘There are now more healthcare workers in Australia than ever before, with all state and territories benefitting from an increase,’ Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher said.
‘At a time of unprecedented demand there are thousands of fully qualified doctors, nurses and midwives who can ease the strain on Australia’s stretched health systems and help patients receive the care they need sooner.
‘Public safety is always our priority, and this means not only ensuring patients have access to a practitioner when they need them but upholding robust requirements so they can be assured of the training and qualifications of the health practitioners they are seeing.’
To be registered to work in Australia, internationally trained practitioners must provide proof of their training and qualifications, international criminal history checks, English language skills, Australian employer documentation, application forms and identity checks, among other safeguards.
More than 60 percent of international applications are missing some of the critical information, making the assessment process more complex.
With state and territory health systems actively targeting thousands of international health workers, Ahpra has launched a new webpage to provide clear information to offshore applicants, stepped up its co-ordination with major employers, adopted a new approach to initial risk assessments, and placed more senior staff on the frontline assessing applications at their earliest stage to try and overcome those delays.
This renewed focus has allowed applications which are missing vital information to be detected far sooner, cutting the time taken to request additional information from four weeks to just seven days.
‘We know the process of registering to work in Australia can be particularly complex in some cases, but we have made significant improvements to the system and added additional staffing resources to smooth the transition and will continue to do more for those we are keen to welcome to our shores,’ Mr Fletcher said.
Australia’s health workforce boost will continue in the coming months following a further rise in registration approvals and applications to Aphra and the National Boards.
In the first three months of 2022-23 new applications for International Medical Graduate registration have risen by 56 percent, and Internationally Qualified Nurse and Midwife applications have increased by 87 percent, compared to the same period last year.
Dr Ashton Yap is now an intensive care registrar in Townsville after applying for International Medical Graduate registration while working in Singapore during 2020. While COVID-19 closures added an extra level of complexity in accessing authorities to sign documents, Dr Yap arrived in Townsville in August 2020 and said he is thrilled to serve his new community.
‘The process was fairly seamless. It was clear, and education materials and other materials provided to me to go through the steps were very, very straightforward,’ Dr Yap said.
‘I like to be in an environment where people are from different backgrounds and that really makes things more exciting. The Australian health system is very mature. It’s ability to look after the doctors and the other healthcare staff translates very well into better patient outcomes because everyone knows that if you don't look after your own staff, how are you going to look after the community?’
Dr Lafir Aliyar began work as an anaesthetist at Royal Hobart Hospital on November 4 after the hospital helped guide its recruit through a six-week registration process from Qatar.
‘Coming from a very different system, it was challenging at first. The hospital, department and colleagues were very cognitive of this and extended tremendous support,’ Dr Aliyar said.
‘People have been very supportive in helping me settle in. The experience has been very encouraging so far and I am excited about what my current career path has to offer.’
Dr Bradley Pautz undertook a year-long workplace based assessment program in South Africa so he could be eligible for general medical registration in Australia. After completing the program, Dr Pautz’s registration was approved within two months, allowing him to begin working in emergency medicine at the Port Macquarie Base and Kempsey District hospitals in June 2021.
‘Ahpra is extremely thorough with sifting through the submitted documentation and fortunately I was on top of all the administration of the application, which I feel helped my cause making the process more streamlined,’ Dr Pautz said.
‘I have thoroughly enjoyed working in an incredibly supportive and friendly environment, making adjusting to the Australian health system effortless. There is a great team dynamic which has made attending work an enjoyable experience. Having my experience and skill level acknowledged amongst the team has allowed me to progress quickly in the department to taking on more senior roles, which has been great.’
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‘At a time of unprecedented demand there are now thousands of fully qualified doctors, nurses and midwives arriving to ease the strain on Australia’s stretched health systems and ensure patients receive the care they need sooner’ – Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher.