SIMG stories: From Tokyo to Perth

20 July 2022

Japanese anaesthetist Dr Naoko Nakaigawa shares her experience as a specialist international medical graduate (SIMG).

Naoko graduated from medical school in 2004 in Japan and started anaesthesia training in 2006, passing the final exam to qualify as a specialist anaesthetist in 2013 by the Japanese Society of Anaesthetists. She recently passed her final SIMG exam after three unsuccessful attempts and gives us some insight on her road to get there.

“I was very close to my father who had led a very interesting career as a scientist and travelled and lived all over the world as part of that. Perhaps I gained my sense of adventure to live somewhere other than Japan from him. Sadly, my father passed away in 2015, so I decided the time was right to look overseas for the next stage of my career” Naoko says.
“I had visited Australia previously to compete in the IRONMAN triathlon event in Busselton, Western Australia and loved the beach and more laid-back lifestyle there compared to Tokyo. So, I chose Perth for the next stage of my medical career, understanding that English was very much my second language, so I had a lot of study ahead of me.”
“I moved to Australia in 2016 and studied full-time at an English school in Melbourne, passing the language proficiency test in December of that year. I then returned to Tokyo to maintain my specialist license in Japan, working as a consultant at St Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo. I also prepared my paperwork for Australia, including my visa and job applications. It was a daunting process as the whole system in Australia is very different to Japan.”

“I returned to Melbourne for the SIMG interview in November 2017 and received the result of ‘partially comparable’ which meant I still needed to do 24 months of supervised clinical practice, an effective management of anaesthetic crises (EMAC) course, participate in the continuing professional development (CPD) program, and the SIMG exam.”
“I commenced working at Royal Perth Hospital as a senior registrar from August 2018. While I was happy to be in Australia it was a really hard time as I initially struggled to get used to the Australian system and the new environment and of course, everything was in English. I was exhausted after work every day for the first six months, as I was trying to learn a new system, do my job well and concentrate on everything in another language. The environment at Royal Perth Hospital was great as there were many SIMGs who made me feel very welcome.”
“In June 2019, I started studying for the exam by attending the ANZCA final exam preparation course. This was challenging as I had no idea what to expect or what it involved. The next three years were an incredibly tough road, and my life was only work and study. While COVID was a stressful time, perhaps the reduced freedom and lack of distraction helped my study”.
“During these three years, I completed a range of study courses and additional English support sessions to improve my standard, especially for the viva. Despite all my efforts and support from so many people, I received notification that I needed to attend a re-interview to discuss opportunities and strategies to help prepare me for the next exam sitting. While receiving the letter was initially hard, the advice from the committee was excellent as I felt they understood my situation and their advice was tailored to areas I needed to focus on. This gave me reassurance and motivation to keep going”.
Naoko passed her final exam in May 2022 and says “it has been a very long process of hard work, discipline and setbacks along the way but to receive the words ‘congratulations’ on the email was honestly the best feeling I had experienced in my life”.

“I couldn’t have achieved this successful result without the significant support and help I received from so many. Thanks to my many friends, colleagues, and consultants who kept encouraging me. Several consultants gave up their personal time to help with my study. I felt so much kindness and support through this exam journey.”

“Australia is a wonderful place to work and I commend the openness to accept people from diverse backgrounds. I love working here and I am excited to continue my profession as a consultant and further my learning”.

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Last updated 16:25 8.09.2023