Medical Board of Australia - MBA Medical student newsletter, Issue 3, April 2022
Look up a health practitioner


Check if your health practitioner is qualified, registered and their current registration status

MBA Medical student newsletter, Issue 3, April 2022

Medical student newsletter


Chair's message

We’re sending you this newsletter because, as a medical student in Australia, you are registered with the Medical Board of Australia.

You need to be registered to practise medicine, so we will be an ongoing feature of your professional life. We will be in touch from time to time while you’re a student, to introduce you to some of the things you will need to know about the medical profession and being a doctor.

As a medical student, you will be learning about good medical practice. In time, you will become skilled at using your judgement and insight. I encourage you to learn how to look after yourself. It will help you provide the best care for your patients.

Being a doctor is a privilege. There are many ways to practise medicine in Australia, but its core tasks involve caring for people who are unwell and seeking to keep people, their families and communities well. Sharing these tasks is our common bond as doctors. Patients trust us. Our job is to justify that trust by being honest, ethical and trustworthy.

In this edition of the newsletter we explore how cultural safety directly affects patient care outcomes and the importance of eliminating racism to help improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. We also examine social media, cosmetic surgery and explain that your medical education is independently accredited.

I encourage you to have a look at the Medical Board’s website. We publish a range of information about the Board’s expectations of medical practitioners as well as regular news items. We also publish a monthly newsletter for medical practitioners that you can access via the website.

I wish you well in your study of medicine and look forward to welcoming you to our profession when you graduate.

Dr Anne Tonkin

Dr Anne Tonkin
Chair, Medical Board of Australia

↑ Back to top

Did you know you are registered?

Key points

  • You’re registered with the Medical Board of Australia
  • Student registration is automatic
  • Your academic progress and results stay private

As a medical student, you’re automatically registered with the Medical Board of Australia. Your medical school took care of the admin when you started university. There are no fees for medical students to be registered, and the register of medical students is not public.

The only overlap between our role as a regulator and your life as a medical student relates to your health and your criminal history. Even in these areas, it’s rare for us to get involved.

You’ll only hear from us if you’re so unwell that we think it’s not safe for you to see patients while you study medicine. And you only need to tell us about your criminal history if something so serious has happened that we have to decide whether it’s safe for you to be registered. Legally, this happens if you have been charged with an offence that could lead to at least a year in jail, or have been found guilty or convicted of it.

We have no role in your academic progress and don’t hear about your results. 

Your medical school gave us your email address so we can get in touch when we need to, including to send you these newsletters. 

When you’ve graduated and are registered to practise, we’ll have more to do with each other.

Read more about what student registration means.

↑ Back to top

Why your medical school is accredited

Accreditation of programs of study is our way of making sure medical students get high quality education and training. It reassures us that when you graduate, you will have the knowledge, skills and professional standards you need to practise medicine safely. 

Programs of study delivered by university medical schools in Australia are accredited by the Australian Medical Council (the AMC). 

Accreditation involves:

  • assessing new medical programs against accreditation standards approved by the Board, including with site visits, before the program starts
  • monitoring established programs to check they continue to meet accreditation standards
  • reaccreditation assessments at six to 10-year intervals 
  • site visits at least every 10 years, including meetings with teaching staff, students and other stakeholders such as healthcare services that provide your clinical placements.

The Medical Board approves programs of study based on AMC recommendations. That means that you know you have a registrable qualification once you have graduated from an accredited medical school.

Read more about accreditation and approved programs of study.

↑ Back to top

Prioritising cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

Key points

  • Cultural safety directly affects patient care outcomes
  • All doctors need to provide culturally safe care
  • Eliminating racism will help improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

Medical school will teach you about cultural safety and is likely to offer you many opportunities to deepen your knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and their health needs. Think seriously about prioritising these.

We inhabit a land that, for many ages, was cared for by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, whose history and culture have uniquely shaped our nation. 

Cultural safety applies specifically to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples for their status as First Nations Peoples. It is essential to our care of these patients and directly affects their care and health outcomes.

Mr Karl Briscoe, Co-chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Group and CEO, National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners, says, ‘When we talk about patient safety it’s important to understand that for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, this is inextricably linked with cultural safety. This means that cultural safety is not an “add on” or “nice to”. It’s something all registered health practitioners and health regulators need to understand and apply.’

Cultural safety is determined by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, families and communities. Culturally safe practice is the ongoing critical reflection of health practitioner knowledge, skills, attitudes, practising behaviours and power differentials in delivering safe, accessible and responsive healthcare free of racism.

Improving cultural safety and eliminating racism in the health system is a vital part of our commitment to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

Read more about cultural safety in Section 4 of Good medical practice: a code of conduct for doctors in Australia.

Read about our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy 2020-2025.

↑ Back to top

How much social is ok?

Key points 

  • Think before you post
  • Social media can blur boundaries between personal and professional
  • Professional standards apply to your interactions – in person and online

Almost everyone is active on social media. But have you thought about what changed when you became a medical student? Or what should have? It’s worth making sure your digital presence doesn’t get in the way of your professional life, especially once you’re a practising doctor.

The Medical Board of Australia sets the professional standards you’re expected to meet when you graduate. The short version is that the same rules apply whether you’re interacting in person or online. On social, you need to:

  • meet patient confidentiality and privacy obligations
  • practise in line with our Code of conduct
  • maintain professional boundaries  
  • communicate professionally and respectfully with or about patients, colleagues and employers
  • not use or refer to information that is false, misleading or deceptive
  • make sure your advertising claims are supported by acceptable evidence.

Here’s a link to our guidance on social media

You can find other tips on being safely social from the Australian Medical Association.

↑ Back to top

Cosmetic surgery

Cosmetic surgery has been in the news lately – and not in a good way. An independent reviewer is looking at patient safety issues in the cosmetic sector, for the Board and Ahpra. 

Cosmetic surgery has rapidly grown as a multi-million-dollar entrepreneurial industry. There are practices and marketing methods used by some registered health practitioners that raise significant patient safety concerns.

Some worrying features of the cosmetic industry set it apart from conventional medical practice. Do corporate business models place profit over patient safety? What does it mean for informed consent when social media emphasises benefits and downplays risks? What happens to safety when patient choice is not based on medical need?  Or when there is limited factual information for consumers and exponential growth in both demand and supply?

We’ve asked the independent reviewer, supported by an expert panel, to tell us how to strengthen risk-based regulation of practitioners working in that sector, to keep patients safer and make sure our approach keeps pace with what’s happening in the industry.  

Looking at the big picture and the issues in cosmetic practice is one example of regulation at work. 

You can read more about our cosmetic surgery review.

↑ Back to top

Professional pitfalls

Most doctors do a great job but in some rare cases, the Board will refer a doctor to a tribunal because they are seriously concerned about the risk to patients from the doctor’s practice. In the last financial year, tribunals considered 48 cases involving doctors. There were almost 130,000 doctors registered during that same period.

Tribunals operate like courts. Doctors and the Board and Ahpra are usually legally represented and after hearing the evidence, the tribunal has to decide whether or not a doctor has engaged in unsatisfactory performance, unprofessional conduct, professional misconduct, has an impairment or whether their registration was improperly obtained. 

Tribunals have significant powers, including to stop a doctor’s practice by cancelling their registration.

Tribunal hearings are public and decisions are published. 

You can read about professional pitfalls and how to avoid them by reading these tribunal decisions. 

Court and tribunal summaries are accessible on the Ahpra website. You can also view recent hearing summaries in the news section. 

↑ Back to top

Want to know more?

For more information, see the Medical Board of Australia website and the Ahpra website.

Comment on the newsletter is welcome, send your suggestions to [email protected]

↑ Back to top

Page reviewed 24/04/2024