Associate Professor Abdul Khalid, Dr Praveen Thottappilil, Dr Anandaram Jothibabu, Dr Harish Kalra and Dr David Barton.
Program ensures staff from overseas feel right at home
Ballarat Health Services has set up a program to ensure the retention of its overseas-trained psychiatrists.
BHS Psychiatric Services Director of Clinical Services Abdul Khalid believes this is crucial because of the shortage of Australia and New-Zealand-trained psychiatrists.
Because of his own experience, Associate Professor Khalid is wary of wooing new recruits, collecting them from the airport and then dumping them unceremoniously in regional areas.
‘It’s not surprising that many of these recruits don’t last.’
Associate Professor Khalid arrived in Australia from India as a young psychiatrist in 2001.
There was no-one to help him with basic tasks, like finding somewhere to live or open a bank account.
It wasn’t long before he felt completely stressed-out and isolated.
But he persevered and—with Psychiatrists Training Program Coordinator David Barton—has set up a structured program that begins by helping overseas recruits obtain their Australian working visa.
The support program really kicks in when they arrive in Ballarat.
‘We believe that even the best overseas-trained psychiatrist requires intensive orientation and supervision in this country and it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that such a structured program is in place to assist the psychiatrist.’
The program provides intensive acculturation, on-going professional development and support as the new psychiatrists work towards their Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrist Fellowship exams.
It includes a fortnightly, full-day training program in preparation for the Fellowship exams.
‘The exams are culture-based and different in each country,’ Dr Barton said.
‘Overseas-trained psychiatrists need two years to become good quality practitioners in the Australian mental health context.
‘Don’t get me wrong—they have excellent skills but it’s about developing them in the Australian context.
‘We believe our program helps them become excellent practitioners.’
And the results support Dr Barton’s belief.
BHS Psychiatric Services currently has six RANZCP Fellows and six overseas-trained psychiatrists at various stages of completing their requirement for Fellowship.
‘Our program is giving good results and our pass rate is comparable to the best,’ Associate Professor Khalid said.
‘This success, combined with the help we provide our overseas Fellows to obtain their permanent residency, means most of them should stay with us for the long haul.
‘This provides flow-on benefits to clients and is helping us tackle mental illness more effectively in the community.
‘BHS Psychiatric Services knows that, if we take care of the basic things, the results will certainly follow.’
BHS Psychiatric Services also pursues of the ‘best of the best’ international medical graduates.
This pursuit has led them to the King George Medical College in Lucknow, India.
‘King George is one of the highest quality training centres in the world and its graduates are greatly sought after,’ said Associate Professor Khalid, who conducts regular visits to the university to ensure its training program is comparable to Australian standards.
He meets with senior staff and only appoints a psychiatrist after a face-to-face interview, excellent referee reports and recommendations of senior supervisors who vouch for the candidate.