Like lots of doctors, I felt like I was more than ready for a change when I reached the end of my Foundation Programme. I thought about taking a year out of my training, but I didn’t really have anything much in mind as to how I was going to fill twelve months without work! I spent a few weeks in Australia over Christmas, visiting my brother, and then the penny dropped – stay in work, but don’t stay in London.
Deciding to Move
I told my supervisor about my plans for the end of the year, and she was supportive. It had been clear that I was looking for a change in pace for some time, so I guess it wasn’t all that much of surprise to her, or the other SHOs I was working with. I didn’t reckon I’d need all that much ‘support’ per se – Australia was a country I knew relatively well, and I spoke the language. However, the process of successfully settling into work – as I am now – was actually quite involved.
First up was the decision of where to move to. My brother lived in Victoria, in the south, and I really loved the area and the people I had met there – my brother wasn’t a doctor, but I felt like I had absorbed a little of the work ethic and how ‘things worked’. I had wanted to move to Victoria for years, so – I did!
Getting a Job
The competition ratio was pretty high in the area I wanted to move to, and it looked like the work would be similar to the city-based environment I was used to – albeit in a much smaller city. Melbourne, I think, is a popular work destination but there was no one jobs board or site – so I had to apply for multiple jobs like I had done when I was applying for medical school, and eventually, I got a telephone interview (which I had to get up at 4.30am for!). The interview was roughly what you would expect from a medical interview – why now? why here? give us an example of when…? – but all in all it went pretty well.
If I’m honest, getting the interview was far harder than the interview itself. I had to trawl job sites, I contacted a few hospitals directly, and I tried to use my small network of people in Australia to find any jobs that weren’t yet publicly advertised. I also tried to work with a recruitment agency, but it didn’t yield anything in particular. Not only that, but I had to constantly reformat and re-enter my personal info into however-many application portals, and re-jig my CV for each new job, writing cover letters each time!
Once I had the job offer, the work of becoming verified began, and basically involved writing to a long list of agencies including the AMC – the Australian equivalent of the GMC – and paying to have background and visa checks. The process was, admittedly, boring and expensive, but basically involved me letting the GMC and all the relevant bodies in Oz what I would be doing. And asking permission, essentially.
Luckily, my destination hospital in Melbourne was very good at letting me know what I needed to do and by when, but making sure that I kept to the schedule was nevertheless vital. All in all, it cost over US$2000. Not cheap, but in the grand scheme of things – worth it! The biggest expenditure was the visa, which required sponsorship and then a full medical – however, my employer once again helped with this.
Life in Oz
So, all that completed, I literally turned up and started work within a week or so. I can’t speak for other parts of the world, and not having to learn a new language makes a huge difference, but continuing my career overseas has been pretty seamless. My experience is valued as much as at home, and I don’t feel like I have been demoted in any way at all. The hardest aspect of the move is the social and emotional toll such an overhaul takes. I’m lucky enough to have friends and family in Australia, but even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t soon make more (as indeed I have!) and enjoy the country just as much.
I would thoroughly recommend that doctors consider working overseas for at least a short time in their career. The cost is high, and the stress it causes both before and during can be immense, but even in a Westernised, English-speaking nation, I feel like my experience of the world has increased so much. Many doctors return to the UK, as I’m sure I will at some point in the future, but for now, while I’m still young(ish), there really is nothing to lose – except the cost of background checks! I really don’t miss the Tube.