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Purpose and Mission
Obstetricians are responsible for the health and well-being of a mother and baby during and after pregnancy and birth. Gynaecologists specialise in diagnosing and treating disorders and diseases of a woman’s reproductive system. Obstetrician/Gynaecologists (OB/GYNs) provide medical and surgical care to women during pregnancy and child birth. They provide preventative care, prenatal care, Pap smears, premenopausal and postmenopausal care, family planning advice and help detect sexually transmitted diseases. Patients are referred to OB/GYNs by their GPs.
Obstetricians see their patients at the beginning of their pregnancies and provide prenatal vitamins and advice to prevent birth defects and optimise the health and well-being of mother and child. They perform ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy to ensure that the foetus is growing as expected, to check for abnormalities and to verify that there’s good blood flow to the umbilical cord. They also verify if the placenta is in the correct position and does not block the birth canal.
Obstetricians can also choose to specialise in the following areas:
Gynaecologists will use a combination of patient examination, physical findings, diagnostic images, and test results to diagnose and treat issues that are related to female reproductive systems. Responsibilities include:
OB/GYNs work in hospitals, clinics, private practices and hold teaching positions at universities. They split their time between elective surgery, out-patient clinics and private practice. Depending on their specialty, they need to be available for on-call work for emergencies.
Obstetricians/Gynaecologists must first complete their medical degree and obtain a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS). They must then work at a public hospital for two years. The education and training in both fields usually takes place concurrently. Doctors can apply to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANCOG) to undertake further training in this field and receive Fellowship which usually involves at least six years of study while practicing as a doctor.
Steps for Becoming an Obstetrician/Gynaecologist in Australia
Refer to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANCOG) for more information.
All doctors that are trained in Australia or overseas, must be registered with the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) to practise in Australia and with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), which provides administrative and policy support to the National Health Practitioners Boards.
Obstetricians should have excellent communication and relationship building skills as they need to be able to communicate effectively with patients, their families and colleagues from all cultures and backgrounds. They should actively listen to their patients to ensure that their patients feel they are being heard, to ask appropriate questions and to ensure clear understanding of what their patients are trying to communicate. A good bedside manner will help OB/GYNs to effectively collect medical history, discuss issues and risks and any other concerns a patient may have.
Gynaecologists must be able to counsel and comfort patients who have complicated pregnancies and births. They should be able to exercise strong judgment, critical thinking and decision making skills as they need to make important decisions under pressure, identify complex health issues and identify the best method of treatment. They must also be emotionally stable as they often work under highly stressful conditions.
OB/GYNs play a key role in giving children a healthy start to life and will often set the tone for a child’s first years. They are also critical to ensuring the overall health and well-being of a woman’s reproductive system.