Walking a mile in their shoes: reflections on being an international medical graduate

Jennifer A May
Med J Aust 2017; 207 (5): . || doi: 10.5694/mja16.00901
Published online: 4 September 2017

A comprehensive orientation process is essential in assisting international doctors to adjust to life in a new country

International medical graduates (IMGs) remain a crucial part of our general practitioner and specialist workforce, with many working in rural and remote locations.1 With the rapid pace of globalisation in health care, the traffic in health graduates across the globe is destined to continue and expand. The World Health Organization has developed a code of conduct for use by participating countries.2 A recent experience — as a pair of IMGs working for 12 months in rural British Columbia in Canada in 2015 — caused serious reflection on the often unrecognised stress our colleagues face when they make the momentous move “Down Under”. I was offered a position in a small community of 6000 people with a visiting medical officer role at the hospital and responsibilities of office-based general practice. Understanding the professional medical role of a doctor is but one of the adjustments to be made in a new country with new processes, cultural norms, expectations and issues, such as very cold weather and large predatory animals (Box).

  • Department of Rural Health, University Of Newcastle, Tamworth, NSW

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

  • 1. Taylor AL, Hwenda L, Larsen BI, Daulaire N. Stemming the brain drain — a WHO global code of practice on international recruitment of health personnel. N Engl J Med 2011; 365: 2348-2351.
  • 2. Parliament of Australia, Standing Committee on Health and Ageing. Lost in the labyrinth: report on the inquiry into registration processes and support for overseas trained doctors [website]. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2012. (accessed July 2017).
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  • 4. Curran V, Hollett A, Hann S, Bradbury C. A qualitative study of the international medical graduate and the orientation process. Can J Rural Med 2008; 13: 163-169.
  • 5. Gauld R, Horsburgh S. Does a host country capture knowledge of migrant doctors and how might it? A study of UK doctors in New Zealand. Int J Public Health 2016; 61: 1-8.


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