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Student Experiences Applying for Graduate Positions

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Written by Jo Giblin and Caitlin Hall, graduating Flinders University Bachelor of Midwifery (Direct Entry) students and ACM SA Branch Student Committee members.

How we personally found the experience

The experience of applying for TPPP positions can be daunting and stressful, whether you are applying for one graduate position in one hospital/state, or multiple positions around the country. Our experience was that once you begin the process of applying for graduate positions, you feel as though you are in limbo until the day position offers finally come out. This enhances the stress of the whole process, as it feels impossible  to plan beyond the end of the university year until you know where (if anywhere!) you might be working as a graduate next year.

The longer this sense of limbo drags on, the more it can weigh you down, too; in Jo’s case, she began applying for TPPP positions in May 2018 (with NT Health being the first state or territory to close its applications), and didn’t hear back until early November 2018 from SA Health about positions in that state (SA Health was the last state in Australia to make offers this year). That means 6 months of Jo’s final year of university were spent “in limbo”, essentially.

In terms of the applications themselves, some state’s application processes are far simpler and more streamlined than others: NSW Health was very straightforward and simple, while Victoria Health had a more convoluted process that involved an initial online computer matching process and then applications being made directly to each hospital programme in which candidates were interested. And, while a number of the questions posed on application forms may be fairly generic and similar across each state and territory, the process then varies vastly in terms of what comes AFTER initial online applications. For example, some states conducted individual interviews where candidates had no idea of the questions that would be asked beforehand (similar to a traditional job interview, although far more clinical), while some states provided candidates with their interview questions shortly before their face-to-face interviews so they could adequately prepare. Some venues conducted group interviews that also included examination elements, while other states (such as SA and NT) didn’t conduct any interviews and just based their candidate selection on online applications alone.

Unfortunately, applying for interstate graduate positions can be quite daunting, as you may not feel as though you know “the system” or have the necessary support to complete a satisfactory application. That said, in our experiences some states and venues proved to be very supportive over the phone, when we contacted them for guidance as to how to satisfactorily complete our applications correctly and on time. For instance, both NSW Health and the Royal Women’s Hospital in Victoria were happy to answer any questions that Caitlin had, and offered her strong guidance as to their application processes.

Challenges we faced

As students, the process of interviewing for graduate positions can become very expensive if you decide you want to travel interstate to attend multiple interviews face-to-face. Most hospitals/health networks will offer phone or video Skype interviews to prospective interstate candidates, but candidates may still want to travel to attend interviews in person so that they can take the opportunity to check out the hospital that they will prospectively be working as a graduate, as well as seeing the surrounding suburbs, town or city.

Travelling interstate for interviews also takes TIME and can be stressful during your final semester of university, when you are also contending with assignments and hospital placements as part of your very busy degree! If you factor in potential expenses and time constraints earlier in your final university year (or perhaps at the earlier), hopefully you can budget and plan successfully to ease these challenges when you first think about applying for TPPP.

Finally, applying to many different places means you can run the risk of losing track of exactly what documents you have submitted for each application, and what core values each hospital or health network has, as well as what requirements they have requested of prospective future employees. Being organised and systematic in your approach to your applications is therefore key!

Different places we applied and our reasoning behind this

Jo (right) and Caitlin at their recent Flinders University
graduation celebrations".

Jo applied for positions in the Northern Territory (with NT Health), New South Wales (with NSW Health), Victoria (with Bendigo, Mildura, Epping and Djerriwarrh Health Services), Tasmania (with the Tasmanian Health Service South), and South Australia (with SA Health). All of Jo’s preferred hospital programmes were in regional/remote areas, as she has a particular interest in rural and community health, and in working with Indigenous women in a regional maternity care setting. Having lived overseas previously and having adult children, who no longer require her constant attention, Jo and her family were also happy for her to relocate for work, if necessary.

Caitlin applied for positions in New South Wales (with NSW Health), Victoria (with Bendigo, Monash, the Royal Women’s and Mercy Hospitals), Tasmania (with the Tasmanian Health Service South), Auckland (with the Auckland District Health Board in New Zealand), and South Australia (with SA Health). Caitlin’s preferred hospital programmes were largely located in urban areas, as she is keen to develop her skills and gain experience working in a large tertiary hospital setting. Having lived interstate and overseas several times previously, Caitlin was not daunted by the prospect of relocating from her hometown for work if necessary, and in fact was quite excited by the prospect of a potential “tree change” (Hobart) or “sea change” (Newcastle, Auckland) after finishing her degree.

Tips for future students

The process of applying for TPPP positions can feel somewhat overwhelming, not only because (as is often the case in life) we have the tendency to catastrophise as students and feel that our “whole future is riding” on our application/s, but also because there is simply SO MUCH to fill in, print out, complete, file and keep track of. If you are doing multiple applications, it can be a very time consuming process for a student who is already time poor due to university and life commitments!

For future students doing TPPP applicaitons, Jo and Caitlin have put together a number of tips to help you on your journey...

  • Be very organised in your filing of your applications, so you know exactly WHAT you have submitted WHERE and WHEN. Keeping different folders and sub-folders on your computer that are named for each different state and venue you have applied for is a good way to go about doing this.
  • Use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) model whenever possible when answering clinical questions – both in your written applications and at interviews. It really does help focus your answers, keep things succinct, personalise your responses and help you sell yourself clearly without giving generic “everyman” answers.
  • Prepare all your necessary documentation (including the creation of good quality, certified computer-based scans of everything) EARLY. Much of this documentation can be “recycled” from application to application, so if you get it done and organised early you’ll feel as though you’re half-way there with some of your applications already and be less overwhelmed by the whole process.
  • Decide who you are going to use for your clinical referees EARLY in the year, and discuss with them where you will be applying, so that they will know how many references they may need to supply. If appropriate, and depending on your working relationship with your clinical referees, you may also want to discuss with them what attributes you would really like highlighted in your references.
  • Be GRATEFUL and be sure to thank your referees for their support (a small gift of thanks never goes astray either!).
  • Even though it should go without saying, we’ll say it again here anyway: submit EARLY (not just before the deadline!), in case of computer system malfunctions or unexpected life commitments getting in the way.
  • Finally, don’t be discouraged or disheartened by the process, or the eventual outcomes. Remember that your interviewers are human too, and know that the whole job application process is very stressful for students. They want everyone to do well, honestly! Just stay positive, keep breathing, be organised, know that everyone is in the same boat and on the same footing as you during their final year, and remember that you will soon be an amazing midwife no matter the outcome of any TPPP applications!

Postscript

In the end, Jo interviewed in person in NSW and Victoria, and over the phone with Tasmania (SA Health and NT Health did not offer interviews and based their selections on the online applications only). Caitlin interviewed in person in NSW and Victoria, over the phone with Tasmania, and via video Skype with Auckland.

Jo and Caitlin both feel extremely fortunate to have been offered graduate spots for 2019; Jo will be relocating to work in rural NSW, while Caitlin is making the move to Auckland to start her midwifery career.