F3 in New Zealand: Working in Urgent Care
We were recently fortunate to catch up with Dr Liam Atkins, who is working as an Urgent Care doctor with White Cross Healthcare in Auckland, New Zealand.
In this interview, Liam gives insight into the positive experience he’s had living and working in New Zealand so far, discusses how his job there differs from working for the NHS, and shares why he’s planning on staying out there for the foreseeable future.
Could you tell us where you’re working currently?
I work at White Cross Healthcare in their Urgent Care clinics in Auckland. I’m working at three different clinics at the moment: Ascot White Cross Clinic for two days of the week, Otahuhu for one day of the week, and Lunn Avenue for one day as well. It’s nice to see a few different areas with a different patient population.
Why did you decide to move out to New Zealand?
I always wanted to work abroad, essentially for my F3 year. As there is a natural break after F2 before you apply for specialties, and I was always going to either travel or work abroad.
The reason I chose New Zealand was that I really like the outdoors. I trained in Sheffield for five years, then lived in Yorkshire for another two years. My favourite thing about living there was all the outdoor stuff: going to the Peak District, the Lake District, doing big hikes, and climbing. New Zealand’s got all of that in abundance.
What’s it like working in urgent care?
It’s really exciting.
The work is most similar to A&E minors and GP. On a typical day I might see:
- fractures, cuts, dislocations and sprains, etc.
- coughs, colds, UTI, chest infections, etc.
- acutely unwell patients presenting with things like abdomen issues, anaphylaxis, cardiac arrest, acute strokes... so you have to be on the ball.
There is a lot of variety. You see loads of different patients and can make your own plan individualised to each patient, so it’s not always the same thing over and over again. Some people are really sick, others aren’t, but it’s always exciting either way.
It’s also nice that as soon as you leave work, that’s it. You don’t need to think about it. Once you see a patient, you either get them to go home, to the hospital, or ask them to come back another time.
What are the main differences between working in the UK versus New Zealand?
The major difference to working in the NHS is that you get to do all the exciting stuff yourself.
Instead of passing a patient over to a registrar, because they’re faster and you need to churn out more patients, you actually get a lot of patient time which makes it a lot of fun. It doesn’t have the strain like it does in the NHS, but it’s still very hands-on, forcing you to learn lots of practical skills.
You get lots of responsibility over here, but there’s always people on hand that you can speak to if you need to. There are also plenty of learning opportunities, you just need to go ahead and ask.
How do the pay and hours compare to the UK?
The pay is way higher than the UK. I’m currently getting paid three or four times the amount that I would in the UK.
The rota is flexible too. You can request certain hours as well, if you want to do late shifts and get paid more, or you want to do early shifts, for example. I’m currently on a five in six weekend rota, so I’m working Saturday to Tuesday. I’ve got loads of friends within White Cross who are all on the same rota, all working weekends, which is incredible because we get all this time during the week to actually travel around and do things.
Annual leave is quite easy to get here too.
Do you get any perks as part of your job?
Yes, we get free healthcare through White Cross. That’s a huge perk because over here GPs are mostly private. Although, if you’re a UK citizen, you get free public healthcare as well, as long as you’re on more than a two-year visa.
I also got an extra plus-one on the White Cross health insurance plan. I had my ACLS paid for, and indemnity insurance and registration paid for as well. Those kind of perks are always helpful.
How is the lifestyle in New Zealand?
The lifestyle is incredible over here. In New Zealand, people have the attitude of work to live, which is different to the UK where more people live to work. Everyone over here really promotes a healthy work-life balance. There are so many outdoors activities to try out, and everyone’s always doing stuff outside of work. In the UK, it’s easy to get stuck in the whole going to work, coming back, going to work again cycle.
What do you love most about working in New Zealand?
As I said earlier, the whole culture in New Zealand is all about work-life balance, and everyone really promotes it here.
Living in Auckland specifically is amazing because you’re in a big cosmopolitan city, but you’re five minutes from a beach, you’re a half-hour ferry from a volcano, you’re a 45-minute drive from one of the best surfing beaches in the world. And there’s hiking around too.
There’s just so much stuff to do, but then you still get the city vibe as well. So you can still go for nights out to great bars and restaurants, and the food is incredible. There’s so many different independent restaurants in Auckland, rather than lots of franchise chains like back in London.
How did Messly help you find work?
A friend sent me a Facebook post that Messly had posted. At first I thought because it was on Facebook it might not be real, but I gave it a go. A couple of days later I spoke to Chris at Messly about the opportunity, and it was a quick and easy process from there. We did everything over the phone and email, I knew exactly what was required, and I sent over my CV.
A week later I had another interview over the phone, which was very casual, ticked all the boxes, and then got offered the job, which was incredible because I was already in New Zealand at the time. I had actually come over on a working holiday visa without a job, because I’d missed the deadline for the expression of interest, so the timing was very fortunate.
Working with Messly was quick, easy, and efficient. If anything, the process was maybe more casual than I thought it would be. I expected more of a grilling in the interview!
Do you plan on returning home anytime soon?
No, I don’t actually. I got here in September 2019, so have been here almost a year now, but I decided early on that I definitely wanted to live in New Zealand, and I just fell in love with it in the first month of being here.
There is an Urgent Care training pathway that you can go into if you love Urgent Care and what to stay here, plus you can apply to work in the public hospitals or go into other training programmes.
Finally, what tips do you have for others who are thinking about making a similar move?
I think it’s easy to settle in very quickly here, especially because everyone’s so friendly. It may seem like a big move, and maybe a bit daunting, but I couldn’t recommend it enough. It’s a great country to visit anyway, if you’re thinking about it then maybe you could try to just visit first. And, in terms of working here, it’s just so much easier than the NHS.
This article is part of a wider series, supporting doctors like yourself with a comprehensive set of guides to ensure your F3 year is a success. These guides cover everything from initial planning, options for moving abroad, help with finding work, and tips for making the most of the experience. Click here to visit our F3 Resource Hub to explore the full list of guides and articles.
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