How to Become an Obstetrician and a Gynaecologist: A Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 29 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Obstetrics and gynaecology can be rewarding medical fields where you provide patients with specialised health treatment. This may include providing routine care to women or specialised care during pregnancy and after childbirth. Learning about this occupation and how to become qualified can help you determine if it's the right career for you. In this article, we discuss the differences between obstetrics and gynaecology, outline how to become an obstetrician and a gynaecologist and describe some essential skills to excel in the role.

What's an obstetrician and a gynaecologist?

While both these professions provide women with healthcare, they have important differences. An obstetrician specialises in maternity care, which involves monitoring a patient's health before, during and after pregnancy. They also have specialised qualifications in delivering babies, which can include safely managing high-risk pregnancies by performing interventions like caesareans. Some common duties of an obstetrician may include:

  • Performing corrective and preventative surgeries

  • Diagnosing female reproductive conditions

  • Ordering additional testing or referring patients to specialists for treatment of medical conditions affecting the reproductive system

  • Conducting fertility treatments and providing resources and guidance to patients

A gynaecologist is a medical professional with specialised knowledge in women's reproductive health. They can diagnose and treat a variety of issues that can affect women's health, including hormone disorders, sexually transmitted diseases and fertility concerns. Gynaecologists are also capable of providing gynaecological surgeries and procedures.

Related: 20 Essential Tools Doctors Use (With Role and Duties)

How to become an obstetrician and a gynaecologist

If you're pursuing a career in women's health, you might want to know how to become an obstetrician and a gynaecologist. Here's a step-by-step guide to gaining the requisite qualifications in this profession:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

Obstetricians and gynaecologists require a university degree to work in their respective fields. Therefore, the first step when pursuing one of these careers is to complete a Bachelor of Medical Science. This course is typically three to four years in duration and can offer you an excellent introduction to medical practice, including how to diagnose, treat and prevent human diseases. It also focuses on a broad range of medical theory, such as human anatomy and physiology, and provides you with opportunities to gain practical experience working in clinical laboratories.

Alternatively, you may pursue a bachelor's degree in nursing and midwifery. This course is also three to four years in duration, depending on whether you study part- or full-time. Many nursing degrees offer undergraduates multiple clinical practice units where you can develop a variety of technical and soft skills by providing basic nursing care to patients. If your goal is to become an obstetrician or a gynaecologist, this is an excellent way to build experience working in hospitals and medical clinics, which you can list on your application when applying for medical school.

Related: 12 In-Demand Medical Careers (With Duties and Salaries)

2. Gain entry to medical school

Once you've completed a relevant bachelor's degree, you can enter a graduate medical program and focus on specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology. Medical school is typically four years in duration and can involve specialised training and frequent examinations.

Gaining entry into medical school can require you to complete the Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT). This is an examination that evaluates your existing knowledge to determine whether you're capable of undertaking high-level intellectual studies. Medical school entry may also require a grade point average (GPA) of at least 5.5 and for you to participate in an interview to discover your motivation for wanting to pursue medical school. These are some standard requirements, but admission guides can change annually. You can refer to the GAMSAT website for further information.

3. Register with The Medical Board of Australia

All practising medical practitioners can register with The Medical Board of Australia. As you pursue your career in obstetrics and gynaecology, it's important to register with the board before you begin your medical residency so you can legally practise medicine. Successfully applying to the medical board may require some important details, including:

  • A criminal history check

  • English language skills registration

  • Professional indemnity insurance

  • Recency of practice registration

4. Complete medical residency

On successful completion of your medical school study and examinations, you're eligible to undertake your medical residency. A residency program can take at least one year, and it's your opportunity to apply your knowledge and practise obstetrics under the guidance of a professional. This can involve experiencing various medical scenarios, including labour and delivery, triage and postpartum. Some residency programs also expose trainees to high-risk patients who require complex medical procedures. Here are several other experiences you can gain from a residency program:

  • Inpatient and outpatient care

  • Diagnosis and treatment

  • Reproductive wellness

  • Diagnostic ultrasounds

  • Pregnancy-related interventions like induced labour

As a qualified obstetrician or gynaecologist and having concluded a residency program, you can attain further hands-on training through active practice, like hospital employment or private practice, or you might consider pursuing fellowship opportunities.

Work environment of an obstetrician and a gynaecologist

As one of these health care professionals, you may typically work in settings such as hospitals, clinics, birthing centres, surgical centres, private practices and other medical facilities. You may often work irregular and long hours every day. For example, a surgical procedure or childbirth might take several hours. Depending on your employment type, you might work specific shifts or be on call for patients. Like many other medical professions, it's typically a fast-paced and high-pressure work environment where you ensure you provide effective care with the highest level of detail.

Beneficial skills for obstetricians and gynaecologists

The following hard and soft skills can help you excel as an obstetrician or a gynaecologist:

Communication

As an obstetrician or a gynaecologist, having effective communication skills can help you provide adequate and comprehensive care. For example, you may use simplified language in discussions with patients so they can understand complex medical details, terminology, procedures and conditions. It's useful for obstetricians and gynaecologists to have good written and interpersonal skills to devise and explain individualised patient treatment plans.

As an obstetrician or gynaecologist, your working environment may involve regular interaction with other healthcare professionals like nurses and physicians. Having effective communication abilities can allow you to respond well in emergency situations or provide nurses with clear instructions.

Related: Types of Verbal Communication (With Importance and Tips)

Compassion and empathy

Like other healthcare careers, obstetricians and gynaecologists require strong compassion skills to help patients feel comfortable during challenging medical situations. For example, a gynaecologist may inform a patient they have a reproductive condition. With empathetic skills, the gynaecologist can communicate compassionately and actively listen to help the patient feel comfortable and reassured.

Problem-solving

Complex medical situations require effective solutions. Competent obstetricians and gynaecologists can identify a patient's symptoms, make an accurate diagnosis and offer suitable treatment options. Having excellent problem-solving skills can help you anticipate the effects of certain medications and treatment procedures to determine the best course of action and healing timeframe based on a patient's circumstances.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions and Examples

Leadership

Depending on your seniority as an obstetrician or gynaecologist, you may be responsible for leading teams of physicians. Leadership can be a significant skill in surgical situations where you delegate duties and request instructions. Having excellent leadership abilities can also help you build a cohesive team environment in which nurses and other relevant medical professionals can feel supported and self-sufficient, which can boost productivity and patient care.

Related: 13 Key Leadership Competencies for Career Progression

Attention to detail

A large proportion of the job can involve treating patients and making accurate diagnoses and prognoses. As an obstetrician or gynaecologist with strong meticulousness skills, you might closely review patients' medical histories to make more informed diagnoses and prognoses. Additionally, this skill can help you to provide thorough surgical care, giving patients greater overall medical attention.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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