It was always a dream of British General Medicine RMO, Dr Gabriella Paoloni, to move to New Zealand and work as a doctor. That dream came true and she now works in Thames, which is in the Waikato region of New Zealand/
“It’s a small hospital and community, so everyone helps each other. The consultants are always approachable. As it is a rural hospital, they have to be very knowledgeable about everything. I’ve learned a lot. I feel like my knowledge and experience are now very diverse from being out here.”
General medicine is a varied and challenging specialty. Every day you deal with a wide range of conditions and patients, and no day is ever the same.
Working in General Medicine during the pandemic the challenging conditions heightened. After months of planning to move to New Zealand, Dr Gabriella finished her FY2 paediatrics rotation in Torbay Hospital, Devon. But the coronavirus pandemic was in full swing in the UK, so she chose to stay at Torbay for longer.
“Paediatrics wasn’t much affected, but we changed our shifts to make sure everything would still work if one of the team went off sick. The whole hospital changed. Recovery rooms became an extension of ICU. There were Covid and non-Covid teams… it was like we were prepping to go to war.”
Though she was hoping to move to New Zealand for work in September 2020, New Zealand had closed its borders and it took a little longer than usual to obtain a special visa and the right job offer. She moved to an A&E department in Portsmouth during the interim, just as the second wave of Covid-19 hit the UK.
“That was horrendous. I remember a day when there were eighteen ambulances waiting outside, all with Covid patients on oxygen… they were getting triaged to come in based on who was going to run out of oxygen first. It was so surreal.”
After finally making the move to New Zealand, Dr Gabriella was offered a 12-month contract in Thames, a small New Zealand town located on the Coromandel Peninsula, 1.5 hours’ drive from Auckland. A bit more paperwork and two weeks of quarantine were required before Dr Gabriella could travel to her new home.
To navigate the varied and challenging role of General Medicine, you will need to have the ability to work well in a team and quickly and confidently solve problems when they arise. You will need to be decisive as you may have to make diagnoses based on limited clinical evidence.
Most General Medicine specialists in New Zealand public hospitals are involved in the care of inpatients admitted with acute medical problems. They supervise junior staff who are responsible for day-to-day patient care and are available on-call to provide advice for their junior staff as required.
One great thing about the specialty is that it is broad-based and allows you to keep your options open, although there are many areas of medicine to explore and take special interest in.
“There’s part of me that might want to try a different specialty or hospital or area one day. But at the moment I’m enjoying things and learning lots," explained Gabriella of her time at Thames, in New Zealand.
She’s now settled in Thames with three other doctors (coincidentally all from the North of England), enjoying the learning experience and better work/life balance New Zealand offers.
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