Purpose and Mission
Haematologists are experts in human blood. They are able to identify abnormalities, diagnose blood-related diseases and prescribe and administer treatment. Haematologists deal with a wide variety of illnesses, from anaemia, which is a treatable condition arising from iron deficiency, to leukaemia, a cancer that causes malignant white blood cells to multiply inside the bone marrow, and haemophilia, an inherited disease that stops the blood from clotting.
When first meeting a patient, a haematologist conducts a thorough examination, taking into account the external factors that indicate a problem. These might include the eyes, nails, skin, eyes, mouth and hair. Once the specialist has identified symptoms, he/she then orders a blood test, to confirm suspicions.
Next, the haematologist’s job is to decide on a course of treatment. This might include medication, blood transfusions and bone marrow transplants. Many diseases of the blood require prolonged monitoring, which means frequent appointments and regular testing. Unfortunately, some illnesses such as leukaemia have a habit of returning, even after successful eradication. When dealing with a life-threatening disease, it is crucial to be particularly vigilant.
As is the case with any medical specialist, an aspiring haematologist must begin his/her education by completing a medical degree. In Australia, there are two options. The first is to study for a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), which takes 5 to 6 years. The second is to achieve an undergraduate degree in any discipline and then apply for a general entry, 4-year medical degree. Whichever path is taken, the graduate must supplement study with at least 12 months of hospital training.
It is then necessary to complete further studies specifically in haematology, leading to a fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (FRACP).
Steps for becoming a Haematologist in Australia
Visit the Royal Australasian College of Physicians for more details.
To practise in Australia, doctors must be registered with the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) and with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). This applies to specialists trained both in Australia and internationally.
Haematologists must be equipped to take on challenges – medically, intellectually and emotionally. First and foremost, he/she must know the field inside and out. Given that many blood-related diseases can become fatal, particularly if left untreated, the position involves a high level of responsibility. A successful haematologist is one who is continually developing his/her knowledge base, keeping up with cutting-edge medical and technological advancements, reading the latest research and bringing all of this into practice in the clinic.
Accurate diagnostic skills are crucial, as is the ability to administer a variety of treatments. Sometimes, a haematologist might need to consult with other medical specialists, to achieve the best results, so a willingness to cooperate is important.
Patients with blood-related diseases, especially terminal illnesses like cancer, can become emotional and stressed. Often, it is necessary for a specialist to be able to communicate calmly and clearly, delivering vital information in as helpful a way as possible.