Myth busting – 10 health career myths dispelled!!

During the course of building the bank of resources for My Health Career over the last 18 months, I have interacted with literally hundreds of people, including health professionals, career development practitioners, guidance officers, careers advisers, and prospective and current health students. And, yes, there are definitely some myths out there regarding health professions. Here I will go through the biggest myth I’ve come across in each of the 10 health professions covered on the site……

1. Dentistry – Myth – “there are no jobs for dental graduates.” As at January 2013, 83% of the Australian Dental graduates from 2012 had obtained full time jobs, down from 93% of the 2011 cohort (full report here). There are a number of possible solutions which would mean graduating dentists would have better employment prospects, including:

a. The Australian Dental Association is lobbying to remove dentistry from the SOL – Skilled Occupations List  (approximately 30% of new dentists in Australia in 2012 were from overseas, with 70% being graduates)

b. The Australian Dental Association would like to put a cap on the number of dental graduates in Australia at 460. Currently it is at 580. (Please note that successful lobbying regarding the SOL and a graduate cap would balance the supply and demand in Australia.)

c. The Department of Health and Ageing is introducing the Dental Relocation and Infrastructure Support Scheme, where dentists will be given significant grants to relocate to regional, rural and remote locations.

d. There has been continued advertising of part-time positions on the Australian Dental Association’s website, and graduating dentists would be able to take on more than one part-time position and work a total of 5-6 days a week, even in metropolitan areas.


2. Dietetics – Myth – “dietitians have an easy job because they just need to tell people to eat more healthy foods.” Wow – after interviewing 7 dietitians so far, I can tell you that this is absolutely not the case:

a. Clinical dietitians need to be very skilled in counselling clients to change their eating habits, as habits around food are often related to sensitive topics, such as emotions and cultural practices.

b. Some dietitians may not even speak with their patients, as the patient is in a coma in the intensive care unit!! The intensive care dietitian will need to calculate the nutritional requirements for these patients, and give appropriate orders for feeding through tubes or directly into the veins.


3. Medicine – Myth – “if I become a doctor, I will get lots of respect.” An article from the Medical Observer stated that 50% of Australian junior doctors (who work under supervision mostly in the hospital system) face workplace bullying, often from senior doctors. Many junior doctors fear repercussions if they speak up. In 2009, the Australian Medical Association position statement noted that there wouldn’t be any quick fixes, and that it would be “a generational change issue.” Upon graduation as a general practitioner or specialist, as with any health professional, it is really up to the individual doctor to be someone who earns respect from their patients and peers.


4. Nursing – Myth – “nurses belong in hospital wards”. Obviously there are literally thousands of nurses across Australia who work on the wards in hospitals. However, there are many other roles nurses may have, including:

a. Practice nurse – many General Practice clinics have a practice nurse who would undertake procedures including wound management, immunisations, electrocardiograms and health care plans and assessments.

b. Operating theatre nurse – theatre nurses may become proficient and specialise in areas such as assisting in eye surgeries (ophthalmic nurses)

c. Nurse practitioners – experienced nurses who have completed post-graduate training can be stand-alone health care practitioners in private practice

d. Health care centres – Brisbane nurse Sharon Armstrong set up a holistic health care practice for families.


5. Occupational therapy – Myth – “occupational therapists just help people get back to work”. The ‘occupation’ in ‘occupational therapy’ includes any task a person might want or need to do. For a child, it could be playing and learning, and to a retiree recovering after a stroke, it may be getting back into a hobby they love doing. For a new immigrant to Australia, it might be learning how to use the public transport system or an ATM.


6. Optometry – Myth – “optometrists only know how to prescribe glasses and contact lenses.” Approximately 40% of eye diseases have no symptoms and are found during a routine eye examination. During the eye test, the optometrists will be assessing the front of the eyes, inside the eyes, and measuring the eye pressure. Although there are eye conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma that people may be aware of, there are literally thousands of eye conditions that an optometrist will be looking for. Patients may be referred to an ophthalmologist if they require treatment or a GP if they are found to require specific general health checks.


7. Pharmacy – Myth – “pharmacists are only useful in dispensing medications.” While large numbers of pharmacists are employed in community pharmacies, there is a push by the pharmacy profession for pharmacists to become medicines consultants. That is, schemes such as the Home Medicines Review program are becoming more widely used, where pharmacists ensure that patients have been prescribed the correct medications, and are using them safely.


8. Physiotherapy – Myth – “you have to be interested in sport to be a physiotherapist.” While obviously physiotherapists need an interest in ‘getting people moving’, there are many opportunities outside being a sports physio. These include working in a hospital (e.g. emergency department – assessing soft tissue damage, surgical wards – getting people moving after surgery), or becoming a paediatric, continence or aged care physiotherapist.


9. Podiatry – Myth – “podiatrists just look after feet.” Podiatry actually deals with prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of conditions of the feet and lower limbs. Podiatrists might assess/treat conditions including sprained ankles and chronic knee pain.


10. Psychology – Myth – “psychologists only work with people who have mental illness.” There are many reasons why people might engage the services of a psychologist. This includes professional athletes who work with a sports psychologist, schools who might provide access to a school psychologist for their students, and businesses or government organisations who have an organisational psychologist help with recruitment and organisational development.


Amanda Griffiths – Founder – My Health Career.


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