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Thrown in at the deep end

Post date: 18/08/2016 | Time to read article: 2 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 18/05/2020

Dr Sarah Green shares her experience of working in New Zealand

I chose to delay applying for further training after FY2 as I wanted an adventure. A short trip to New Zealand during my elective meant I knew what a brilliant place it was. After a fair amount of paperwork and some assistance from a locum agency in New Zealand, I had a job in the North Island for a year.

I arrived in Hamilton, ready to be a medical house officer at Waikato Hospital. Within two days I had become a cardiology registrar instead, as there was a gap in the rota (the system working differently there, without the core medical training level). In the role, I led the ward round most days, attended clinic, saw referrals in the emergency department and on the wards, ran the cardiac arrest team, and was given the opportunity to try new procedures like angiography and pericardiocentesis.

The population served by Waikato Hospital covers a huge area, over 20,000 square kilometres, from the tip of the Coromandel as far south as Mt Ruapehu. Furthermore, as a tertiary hospital there were outreach specialty clinics held in places like Tauranga and Gisborne, with the best travel experience via private plane! 12 months wasn’t long enough, so I extended my contract and spent another year as a renal registrar and working in one of the more rural hospitals. The consultants and senior registrars were supportive, and I never felt I was working without someone to ask for help. There were plenty of offers to write case reports and complete audits – useful for CV building – but it certainly wasn’t expected, and people were more often than not giving travel advice about new places to visit instead.

Hamilton itself was an excellent place to live being central in the North Island. A Friday evening’s drive could have us settled in a Bach overlooking mountains, sea or lakes and a weekend of exploring ahead of us; hiking one of the Department of Conservation’s well-kept trails, white water rafting, enjoying a hot spring, surfing, snowboarding or watching a rugby match. Kiwis have a slightly more relaxed approach to health and safety – one kayak guide telling us that he had forgotten the relevant disclaimer paperwork and ‘Could we all accept there was an element of risk?’ Friends working in the emergency department certainly saw the result of this, with patients being treated for chainsaw injuries, having fallen off roofs or suffered spectacular DIY disasters.

Despite being thrown in at the deep end, it was a brilliant two years and I gained many new skills, the valuable knowledge that being ‘The Med Reg’ wasn’t completely terrifying, and a few extra things for my application to Core Medical Training – including a poster at an international conference as the audit lead. Although my time in New Zealand definitely helped develop my medical skills, it was the other parts of Kiwi life which I appreciated most; time off the training treadmill, a better appreciation of work/life balance and the opportunity to travel both within New Zealand and further afield to the Pacific Islands, Australia and Asia. I returned to the UK as New Zealand was a long way from family, but I cannot recommend highly enough the experience I had in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

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