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Exam bungle devastates trainee doctors

Exam bungle devastates trainee doctors - Featured Image


Mental health concerns have been raised for hundreds of trainee doctors forced to re-sit a major exam that determines the course of medical careers.

On Monday, hundreds of young doctors took to exam rooms across the country to sit the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ (RACP) Divisional Medical Physicians Exam, a ‘make-or-break’ test they had studied months for and cost them thousands of dollars.

But an unknown technical glitch meant many were locked out of the second part of the online test.

As a result all participants were told they must re-sit the exam next month, causing overwhelming distress to the trainee doctors – many who work as registrars at busy hospitals, while juggling family and study.

The debacle has raised mental health concerns by senior physicians and the Australian Medical Association.

John Zorbas, Chair of the AMA Council of Doctors in Training said these doctors had sacrificed a lot to sit the exam.

They are the doctors “we meet on the hospital wards every day” and stressed everything possible must be done to ensure their wellbeing.

“Our main concern is for the mental health of these doctors who put years and thousands of dollars and have sacrificed a lot for their friends and their family to sit this exam,” Dr Zorbas told AAP.

“In order to study for this exam they’ve had to be an average husband, an average wife, an average mother, an average father or an average friend for months or years,” he said.

“The fact that they now have to continue in this space is really distressing for them, they were really looking forward to reconnecting with their friends and family and get back to a normal life and that’s not possible at the moment.”

For many doctors the high-stakes RACP exam was a barrier to becoming a medical specialist such as a cardiologist or gastroenterologist.

It is only run once a year and the failure rate is said to be as high as 50 per cent.

“We call it the marathon of exams,” Dr Zorbas said.

This year marked the first time it had been conducted online.

RACP President Dr Catherine Yelland apologised for the “stress and disruption” the exam’s cancellation had caused and promised to release the cause of the error following an investigation into the bungle.

Before doctors re-sit the exam on March 2 the AMA will meet with the RACP on Friday in a bid to minimise further distress and to demand answers.

Dr Zorbas said “we really want to get some answers on how this happened in the first place. We know other colleges run online exams and they have back-up systems in place, so the question has to be asked why wasn’t there a back-up in place for this exam?’