F3 in New Zealand: My journey into Emergency Medicine training
We recently spoke with Dr Fionnghaile Nixon, a doctor originally from Ireland with medical experience all over the world, who has now settled into New Zealand's Emergency Medicine training programme.
In this interview, she discusses her decision to go into training in New Zealand, and offers some valuable advice for any young doctors looking to follow a similar path.
What is your clinical background, and when did you move to New Zealand?
I studied medicine back home in Dublin, and did my intern year in Cork in 2012 with an interest in paediatrics. I then went over to New Zealand in 2014, mainly because I wanted to travel and see new places.
In total, I stayed for about nine months. I worked in Wellington as a relieving house surgeon, where you provide cover when people are on leave or were off sick. It's a common first role for UK and Irish junior doctors coming over. It allowed me to see lots of different specialties, which was a great opportunity, and is a good stepping stone into the hospitals and the processes out here.
I then went back to do my Diploma in Tropical Medicine in Liverpool. I did that was I was interested in doing NGO work around the world. From there, I went to work in refugee camps in Greece, which was an experience that really opened my eyes.
In September 2017, I came back to New Zealand and have been here ever since. Since then I've done a number of roles, including 1 year of locum work (which you’re eligible to do after a year when have your General Registration with the MCNZ).
I started the Emergency Medicine training programme in November 2019.
Why did you choose to go into a training programme in New Zealand?
I was committed to staying over here longer term, so I felt it was a good direction to take, especially as the training available in New Zealand has such a good reputation.
Once I complete my training I will become a Fellow of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine. That qualification is recognised in the UK and Ireland, which means I could return home as a Consultant. That was a big factor for me.
Can you share with us a bit about your training programme?
The programme lasts five years. It's a combined Australian and New Zealand programme (the College is responsible for training in both countries), which means I can split my training across Australia and New Zealand if I want to, and am eligible to work in both.
I’m actually going to Tasmania soon to make the most of that flexibility!
Of course, you can choose to do all the training in one city or move between places. I’m in Nelson Hospital now, but will be moving to Christchurch later this year. I love to travel, so I'm happy to keep moving around.
I do also plan to do some tropical medicine, so I might go to Darwin in Australia or maybe even Christmas Island.
Do you feel well supported as a trainee in New Zealand?
Yes, because there is a strong focus on education and teaching here. Currently I get half a day of protected teaching time per week, often more, and that time is always respected.
My partner is on the psychiatry training programme, which gets a full day each week of teaching time, which he flies from Nelson to Christchurch for!
Consultants here tend to be young and very engaged. They are always present on the floor, keen to teach, and generally feel very available. There's mentorship involved too, but it’s not overbearing or restrictive at all.
And what's your rota like?
I do a 40-hour work week, with four hours of that being teaching time.
Most RMOs will work a standard day of 8am-4pm, but in ED the shift patterns are more variable. The best thing is that we always leave on time... it’s very uncommon common to have to stay late.
I work every third weekend, then get four days off. I usually go away somewhere in New Zealand and do some hiking on those days.
You’ve worked in lots of parts of New Zealand now. How have your experiences varied?
I’ve found that New Zealand's rural hospitals, which are generally smaller facilities, are always super friendly. They have a cohesive, family-type feel which is very welcoming.
Because they’re smaller hospitals, that also means there tends to be less supervision when you're on call. I’ve been able to do lots of procedures here, and get exposure to a lot of different things. This tends to be where most of the jobs for international doctors are.
A personal benefit for me has been that I’ve been able to see and experience more of New Zealand in terms of the country, like the beautiful countryside, and also the culture.
I'm currently working at Nelson Hospital. It’s a small, 140-bed hospital with a seven-bed ICU. It's known for having great orthopaedics and paediatric services. I chose this area because it has the most sunshine hours in New Zealand, three National Parks, and is right on the coast.
Finally, could you offer any tips for doctors considering making the move right now?
I’d say just take the leap! I absolutely love it out here. You can feel homesick at times, and it can be difficult with your family so far away, and my partner does miss home quite a lot sometimes. So it’s great if you can move out with a friend or a partner to make it an easier transition.
New Zealand is ‘open for business’ and actively recruiting junior doctors from the UK. Find out more about the process and see available jobs by clicking here.
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.