Future doctors examined

11 December 2013

The bedside manner of Australia's potential future doctors is being put to the test this week at the University of Newcastle and University of New England as candidates compete for a place in the prestigious Bachelor of Medicine - Joint Medical Program (JMP).

Admission to the JMP is so highly sought that applicants are required to pass a six-month assessment process designed to identify applicants most suited to the study and profession of medicine.

Dean of the Joint Medical Program, Professor Ian Symonds said personal qualities were considered just as important and influential to the learning and practice of medicine as academic ability.

"The capacity for the candidate to thrive within a learning environment that is student, rather than teacher centred, and encourages team work and collaboration in the education process, is crucial to the study of medicine," he said.

"Decision making skills, interpersonal and communication skills are key qualities required to relate conversationally and empathetically with patients and their families, sometimes in testing circumstances.

"With a five year undergraduate medical degree followed by an internship and often studies in specialty areas, it is important that we select candidates who are committed to lifelong learning."

From more than 3000 students who sat the Universities Medical Admissions Test (UMAT) earlier this year, only about 170 will be invited to enrol in 2014. To progress to the interview stage and be assessed on personal qualities, students needed to score in the top 10 per cent of results or top 15 per cent if they were from a rural background.

Over the past fortnight candidates have participated in eight separate interviews to complete the JMP Multiple Skills Assessment (MSA) and the online Personal Qualities Assessment (PQA), which gauge everything from reasoning, comprehension and expression, to motivation and importantly, an understanding of the career they intend to enter.

The Joint Medical Program:  After three decades of pioneering medical education, in 2008 the University of Newcastle developed the innovative Joint Medical Program (JMP) a unique partnership with the University of New England, Hunter New England and Central Coast Local Health Districts.

Created to address the challenges of healthcare provision in rural and regional Australia, our highly successful joint medical degree this year graduated its first cohort of students. Many of our new doctors are already embarking on professional careers in rural and regional Australia.