Get ready to make the leap into health
By now you should be across the wide variety of roles in this profession. So it's time to sharpen the focus on your goal and how you'll get there.
Being prepared to study at university and making the right choices are two important final steps in reaching your career goals. From the hints and tips below, create a To Do list, add these tasks into your Career Action Plan, implement your plan and then you'll be ready to make the leap.
Preparing to study at university
Here are some hints and tips to help you be more confident and feel more prepared as you approach higher education.
- First you need to consider the career path you have planned. Health profession careers are offered through a wide choice of studies. Careers in some fields involve more study and training than others.
- You'll be studying with like-minded people who will be your future health colleagues. This can be the beginning of your future professional network, so practice your networking skills and you'll make lifetime friendships.
- Go into study with the idea that lifelong learning and professional development will be part of your career plan. Many health professionals choose to do further study to refresh and extend their qualifications, as they climb the ladder of success.
- Focus on your needs and preferences. Most University courses offer some flexible study options, such as evening lectures if you work full-time, or an extra Summer semester if you want to fast-track your study.
Applying for university - special requirements
Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT)
UMAT is a 3 hour test that is required or helpful for entry into some health-related courses in Australia. The test is used specifically to assist with the selection of students into the medicine, dentistry and health science degree programs at undergraduate level. You can visit the UMAT website to see if it is necessary for you to sit the UMAT for entry to courses you are interested in.
Additional expenses for Health students
Students undertaking health related courses may find that there are additional costs to the course fee paid to the university. Many courses ask students to pay for equipment that is necessary for them to complete the practical component of courses (as well as the text books that are needed for the theory). Required items for some courses may include:
- Stethoscopes (a range of health professions)
- Uniforms (a range of health professions)
- Protective glasses (dentistry)
- Goniometer (physiotherapy)
- Orthoscope (audiology)
It is worth noting that most students keep this equipment for use over all the years in their course, and often on into their careers.
You can contact universities directly to ask about what’s needed for courses you’re thinking of applying for. Open Days are also a great opportunity to ask questions about what equipment you might need, and other questions you may have about your study options.
Making the right choices
It's time to do some serious research to narrow down the university courses and pathways that best suit your needs and preferences. Our LEAP Partner universities websites all have a special LEAP landing page with shortcuts to their courses, entry pathways, scholarships & financial assistance, student support services and more...
Things to consider when choosing a course
Selecting the right health course
Even once you’ve chosen a professional field to pursue, it can be difficult knowing which university course is best suited to you and your professional goals. There are several aspects of the course that you may wish to consider:
- What does the course cover?
- Does it include the necessary training requirements that you will need, to gain employment in the profession field you are interested in?
- Does it include your main areas of interest?
- What core and elective subjects are available?
This information is available from each university. You can visit their websites from the LEAP partners page to get this information, but it’s also a great idea to attend events such as open days where you can talk to someone from the faculty you’re interested in, to find out about the details of their courses.
It’s also important to remember that any decision you make about your course and career is not final. While it is worth carefully considering your choices and trying to make the best decision for your pathway, you can make changes in the future if you realise that there's a better option for you.
About health courses and clinical placements
Professional placements in related health workplaces are a required part of most health-related courses. Placements play an important role in preparing professional-entry healthcare students for their part in the future health workforce. Students studying to become part of the health workforce require:
- Tertiary education institutions (universities, TAFEs, colleges or Registered Training Organisations) to teach them the knowledge they will need to practise clinically, and
- Health service providers (such as public and private hospitals, aged care facilities, and a wide range of community based practices), to provide a practice setting to apply their knowledge and build skills and behaviours.
Some clinical learning takes place in Simulation Learning Environments where you can practise skills such as:
- Basic life support 6. Documentation such as progress notes and charting
- ECG 7. IV therapy
- Bed making 8. Medication administration
- Vital signs 9. Inhaled medications/oxygen therapy
- IM/SC/IV injections 10. Bed bath
Clinical placements: facts
- In 2009, over 3.38 million days of clinical training placements were undertaken by students from all health professions across Australia.
- 75% of Placements take place in metropolitan areas, 25% are in rural and remote areas. Check out Health Ambassador Alyce's vidlog#1 about her regional placement in the Torres Strait Islands. Often when students are placed in rural or remote areas for their clinical placements, they will have an opportunity for assistance with accommodation.
Health professions where students are involved in placements include:
- Exercise Physiology
- Medical Laboratory Science
- Occupational therapy
- Oral Health
- Orthotics and Prosthetics
- Radiation Science
- Social Work
- Speech Pathology
"What I did on my clinical placement - a student story"
Gabby, Nursing student, Monash University, Peninsula campus
"The thought of going into the medical profession can be a scary thought - having peoples’ lives in your hands, for example. But as I have discovered in my first year of studies, there is nothing to be scared about.
Your first placement is the most daunting- you feel extremely unsure of what is expected of you by the staff members and whether you know the right information. The university teaches you throughout the semester what is expected and how to be professional with your skills.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions - there are no stupid questions. During your time on placement there will be many things you come across that you were unaware of before- it’s all a learning experience.
After you have the chance to have contact with a patient and observe what is necessary to do with them, with time and practice you will get more and more confident with the skills.
Remember- don’t be scared, no question is a stupid question, placement is a great learning experience and be confident in yourself."
Other unique elements of health courses
Practical and hands-on courses
As well as placements, many health courses include the use of Simulation Labs and Dummies to replicate real life experience and give you more opportunity to prepare for entry into real life health scenarios.
Students from different health courses study together to learn and practice common skills and knowledge. This also allows you to gain an understanding of the roles of other health professionals, which is essential for future team work across health disciplines in the real world.
Health courses are designed to give you an understanding of how all the areas studied fit together to allow health professionals to help their patients. For example, rather than studying anatomy as one subject and drug therapy as another, students will follow case scenarios to tie all understanding of these areas together.
Making the most of Open Day
University Open Days are a great opportunity for you to get a feel for a university. As well as getting to know the campus, you have the chance to meet current students, find out more about the courses you are interested in and learn about any clubs and societies at the university.
Go along with a list prepared questions. Try to talk to the faculty staff who actually teach the course you're interested in and the students currently undertaking it.
To make the most of Open Days, download the Open Day Hints and Checklist [PDF 100kb] and consider the following:
- Plan well ahead. Decide which Open Days to attend, based on the Universities you are seriously considering as a preference.
- Remember it might be a weekend commitment. Consider your travel times and any accommodation needs, to maximise your time at the event.
- As well as the questions in our Open Day Hints and Checklist, write a list of your own questions to ask on the day.
Final checklist, then it’s time to apply
Tick off these last few items and you'll be ready to leap into uni:
- when choosing a course, think about how you’ll get to the campus;
- if you need different learning options, to fit study in with work, does it offer these;
- is there flexibility to change courses or disciplines if you change your mind;
- with a wide range of courses on offer, different ATARs will apply to different courses. If you don’t think you'll get the ATAR you need for your first choice, look for other courses that may be available with a lower ATAR. Transferring back to your preferred course later on, if you are doing well, may be possible;
- when offered a place in a course, make sure you follow the right steps to accept your offer and follow the university enrolment steps, which should be outlined to you with your offer.
Study pathways are not always smooth. There may be problems or barriers which you will have to overcome. There are many people you can talk to about any issues you have while studying (including counsellors, academics and administration staff). These are some common barriers that students experience:
...I complete the prerequisite subjects but my ATAR score isn’t high enough for the course I want?
- Check the middle-band entry consideration for your course as it may enable you to get in. Alternatively, you could begin a similar degree with a lower ATAR at the same university, or a different one, and look to transfer into your desired degree later on.
...I complete VCE and get the ATAR for my preferred course, but I did not complete the pre-requisite VCE subjects?
- Most universities will allow you to take a bridging subject or might offer you a competency exam. Contact the university you wish to apply for, to find out what they recommend.
...I’m interested in studying at uni but I haven’t got the marks and am unsure if I could even handle the material?
- Some universities allow for “single subject study” where you can study a single subject from a course. Then depending on your results you can potentially be offered a spot in the full course.
...I find that the course or university I chose isn't for me?
- Once you are in the university system, it is often possible to transfer from one course or university to another. Speak to an academic advisor about your transfer options and what credits you may get for relevant subjects already completed. Read (below) about James who changed from a Sports Science degree to a Bachelor of Nursing degree.
...I didn’t finish Year 12 but am now really interested in studying for a degree?
- Some universities have “tertiary enabling programs” which allow entry into tertiary study. Alternatively, you could study a diploma course at TAFE and use this as a stepping stone to get into university.
...I'm doing a diploma course but decide I really want to get a degree ?
- If you do well enough in your subjects, it’s possible that you could transfer from the diploma to the bachelor degree course. You may even get credits for relevant subjects completed. You will need to talk to someone in the future students area of the university offering the degree course you want to do, to see what your options are.
After finishing Year 12 and commencing a Sports Science degree, James realised that wasn't the right choice for him. He transferred to a Bachelor of Nursing and found a new passion "for helping people... through some of the hardest times in their lives."
“I’ve completed my second year of Nursing and I absolutely love everything about the university here and the course itself. But I didn’t know I wanted to do Nursing when I first finished high school.
When I finished high school, I was ridiculously into all kinds of sports. I was competing in Aussie Rules football and road cycling, and following more professional sports than I could count on two hands. Sport was my life - I wanted it to be something I got paid for as a career.
So when I finished high school I applied for and started a Sports Science degree. I loved the freedom of university life and that study was focused solely on the things I was interested in. However, with sport now being involved with everything I was doing in my life, I started to get bored with it. I started to lose my passion. At the end of my first semester I had good grades and I studied hard, but I knew that this course and career wasn’t for me. It was taking the enjoyment out of something I loved.
So I went about trying to figure out what I could do. What was I good at? What interested me? Where could I make a difference?
I knew from my study that I loved learning the Anatomy and Physiology of the body. I had an eager thirst for knowledge about how and why things worked. I also reflected on family members’, relatives’, friends’ and my own experiences of the health care system and the amazing job and contribution people in this field have made to our lives. Everyone has a story of an amazing healthcare professional they have had contact with. This was a field in which I could make a difference. I chose Nursing.
So why did I choose Nursing? I wanted to be up close and personal with people, to help them through some of the hardest times in their lives. I wanted to use my passion for helping people and the human body in the best and most personal way possible, and that is why I chose Nursing.
After deciding to study Nursing, my next decision was where would I study. I actually applied to universities in several states, including Adelaide, Tasmania, Queensland, and Victoria. I got accepted to most of them, which gave me an opportunity to look beyond the grades required to get in, at what they offered in their courses and provided for their students. I ultimately chose my current university because for me socially, it had the clubs and societies that I could get involved in to feel a part of the university. The course I chose had among the highest number of clinical placement weeks, so I could feel as comfortable as possible before working in the field. It also offered elective subjects like perioperative nursing and opportunities for international study tours, which I was really interested in.
The best advice I can give you is that no matter what degree you choose, be sure to look past the ATAR score. Look at what the university and degree offers YOU, which suits YOU and what YOU want to get out of your time at university.”
LEAP Partner Universities - our site's direct links to LEAP landing pages at each Uni website, where you'll find a helpful directory to their essential info.
MyUniversity - searchable info on all Australian university courses. (Australian Government site)
Study Assist helps school students and their families understand what support they are eligible for, if pursuing higher education, based on a range of study options available to them. (Australian Government site)
My Future has a guide to career development, to education beyond Year 12, videos by professionals and interactive career quizzes. My Future also has a new myfuture forum, a tool allowing you to talk to people working in a range of industries. (Australian Government site)
Ace Day Jobs is an ABC site that showcases a range of unusual and intriguing jobs and how people get into them. It includes a job match to you connect with a field of interest.