The Notre Dame Difference

Significant differences that the medical program at Notre Dame offers are outlined below.


All Notre Dame medical students are required to have successfully completed a Bioethics unit to graduate. The medical students do not take this subject as a separate unit but as part of the integrated Years 1 & 2 medicine units.

Bioethics is delivered by the University’s School of Philosophy and Theology which is working closely with the School of Medicine to ensure that the core program is applied to the medical context.

Problem Based Learning

Many medical schools use Problem Based Learning (PBL) as the basis for their teaching and learning. They differ in the extent to which they adopt the PBL principles. The School aims to remain as close as practicable to the original intent of the PBL philosophy.

Clinical Debriefing

Clinical Debriefing (CD) tutorials are another initiative adopted by the School in its medical program.

In the CD tutorial, students and tutor focus upon:

  • Clinical experience
  • Personal and Professional Domain (PPD) learning objectives
  • Course experiences

Clinical debriefing tutorials are scheduled each week. They are an opportunity to look in depth into learning experiences, especially in settings where there are encounters with patients, medical staff and other health professionals.

The intent relates to the proposal of Socrates that “The unexamined life is not worth living”; but it also serves pragmatically to make sure that the best possible lessons are learnt from the valuable but unpredictable learning experiences that arise in a medical course”.

Through formal exploration of experiences in the course the plan is to develop a reflective practitioner through:

  • Adding value learning experiences
  • Avoiding bad lessons being taught
  • Developing reflective habits
  • Recording achievements

Private hospitals

Notre Dame was one of the first medical schools to conduct a significant amount of its clinical teaching in private hospitals. The School is pleased with the quality of these placements and the case mix that the students are exposed to. The students are placed in both the public and private sectors to ensure that their clinical experience is broad. One of the limitations of the private sector for the students has been the lack of interaction with junior doctors. This is changing as the private hospitals adopt junior doctor medical education programs and employ junior doctors.

Aboriginal Health, Rural and Remote Placements in Years 1 and 2

Part of the School’s Mission is that graduates will be likely to practise in areas of unmet need. To that end the School uses its RHMT funds to provide Aboriginal Health, Rural and Remote Placements in Years 1 and 2 and rural practice placements in Year 4.

Each year the Year 1 group undertakes two half-day Aboriginal Health placements; the Year 2 group spends approximately one week in the Kimberley; and the Year 4 students, who did not attend the Western Australian Rural Clinical school in Year 3, spend four weeks in a rural general practice. In 2017, 17 Year 2 students spent six weeks on the Broome Campus where they undertook their normal curriculum and a tailored program of local health and Aboriginal cultural activities.

Clinical Audit in Year 4

The Year 4 students can complete a clinical audit or a research project. The purpose of the clinical audit is to provide graduating medical students with the skills to continue monitoring, reflecting on and improving the quality of their clinical practice.