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Going to hospital and seeking medical advice in Australia

Rest easy knowing you’ll be looked after in Australia

Young international student with a broken leg sitting on the side of a basketball court
Young international student with a broken leg sitting on the side of a basketball court

Getting sick is not something you want to think about when you're exploring a new country. Unfortunately, sickness and injury can occur anytime and anywhere. That's why it's important you know exactly what to do if you get sick while in Australia.

In your home country, you may be used to visiting a hospital when you’re sick. This is not the case in Australia, and if you visit a hospital when you don’t need to, you risk extremely long waiting times. In Australia, sometimes you won’t even need to leave your house to speak to a medical professional!

As an international student, you may be required to hold Overseas Student Health Cover as part of the terms of your visa, but how do you navigate the Australian medical system?

This guide covers some of the most frequently asked questions about how, when and where you can access medical care.

If I’m feeling unwell, what should I do first?

For international students feeling unwell in Australia, it's important to know where to seek medical help efficiently. If your symptoms are mild or you have questions about your health, try our latest App feature: the nib Symptom Checker* (powered by Infermedica). Developed by medical professionals and rigorously tested, this AI-driven platform allows you to input your symptoms and receive a quick, free, and confidential health assessment within minutes. Depending on your answers, we'll advise whether self-care at home is sufficient, if you should book a telehealth or in-person appointment with a GP, or if urgent care at the emergency department is necessary.

What's a GP?

GP stands for general practitioner, and they generally work out of a medical practice, clinic, or they can treat you over phone or video. In Australia, this is your local doctor who can treat you for a wide range of illnesses and injuries. A GP is typically the first person you should see if you have a medical concern, including if you need mental health support. Do not visit a hospital to see a GP.

As an nib member, you have access to the 24-7MedCare General Practice (GP) Telehealth service as part of your cover. This means you can speak to a GP or another medical practitioner without having to leave the house, and you don’t need to waste time in a waiting room. You can easily book an appointment using your nib App.

If you require more specialised care, your GP can write you a referral to a specialised doctor. They can also issue you a medical certificate if you miss work or class due to illness. It’s especially important that you get a medical certificate if you need to ask for an extension on any assignment deadlines.

If you book an in-person appointment at a medical practice or clinic, make sure you check their opening hours. Opening hours vary between GPs, so it's good to be aware of when your local GP is available.

Looking for support at home? nib foundation partner, batyr provides mental health support to over 2,200 university students through their batyr@uni program. batyr program participant and international student, Linh, shares her story.   

Credit: nib health

When should I go to the hospital?

You should go to the nearest hospital if you urgently require medical assistance, even if it is not a life-threatening emergency. For instance, if you suspect that you’ve broken your arm, you should go to the hospital emergency department.

Don't go to the hospital for minor illnesses or injuries that can wait.

Don't go to the hospital for minor illnesses or injuries that can wait to be treated until you can see your GP. Hospitals in Australia prioritise patients based on the severity of their symptoms, so if you come in with a minor injury or illness, you may wait a long time to be seen by a doctor.

What if I'm in an emergency?

The emergency number in Australia is 000. This is the number to call for the fire department, ambulance services and the police.

You should only call this number in an emergency; it’s not an advice hotline.

Always call 000 if you or someone else is experiencing chest pain, difficulty breathing or is losing a large amount of blood.

Most of our covers give you access to unlimited emergency ambulance cover, so no matter what you choose you'll be covered. Emergency ambulance costs are covered by the state government for residents of Queensland and Tasmania.

What if I don't know what to do next?

When you are feeling unwell, you can try our new App tool: the nib Symptom Checker*. It uses smart technology made by doctors to help you with health problems. You just put in your symptoms and do a quick health check for free. It's private and fast. Depending on your answers, we'll suggest if you can manage at home, need to talk to a doctor online or in person, or if it's urgent to go to the hospital. 

This tool is now in English and simplified Chinese for nib International Visitors members.

How can I be prepared in case I get sick?

If you do get sick or injured, you don't want to be worrying about your health insurance on the way to the hospital. There are several steps you can take to ensure you're prepared in case you become ill.

  1. 1

    Make sure you have the nib App installed on your phone and that your details are up to date.

  2. 2

    Download your nib card onto your phone. This way, you always have your card with you, and you can claim directly via your phone.

  3. 3

    Read through the details of how to make a claim. This will ensure that you already know what to do to claim your health insurance benefit if you need to access medical care.

*nib Symptom Checker does not provide a medical diagnosis and should not replace the judgment of a registered healthcare practitioner. It offers information to assist you in decision making based on readily available information about symptoms. If you have questions or concerns about the results from nib Symptom Checker, please consult your registered healthcare practitioner.