A doctor's journey from the UK to New Zealand in pursuit of work-life balance

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Dr Nicky Anto is a general practitioner (GP) who recently moved to New Zealand to escape burnout, seeking a better work-life balance, and a more outdoorsy lifestyle.

An increasing number of GPs are relocating from the UK to New Zealand, driven by several factors. Among these is the pursuit of a better work-life balance, as New Zealand's healthcare system generally allows for more flexible working hours and a less stressful environment. The outdoor recreational opportunities also attract many who seek a more nature-oriented lifestyle. The UK's National Health Service (NHS) has been grappling with funding and staffing issues, which can contribute to burnout and dissatisfaction among medical professionals. New Zealand, by contrast, offers a fresh start in a country with a high quality of life and a welcoming, supportive community.

We caught up with Dr Anto to discuss his journey from a medical career in the UK to life as a GP in New Zealand.

Can you tell me a bit about you and how you became a doctor?

My name is Nicky, and I currently work as a qualified GP in New Zealand. I was born in India, grew up in Hong Kong, and eventually made my way to the UK where I studied medicine.

This isn’t particularly inspiring, but I sort of fell into my career to be honest. I come from a family with little to no tertiary education and a culture that valued professional careers …. I had the grades, I applied, I got in, and the rest as they say, is history.

Now that I work as a medic, I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. There are good days and bad days for sure, but all in all, I love what I do. In a dream world though (not that anybody asked), I would be riding motorcycles for a living … or studying and taming dragons (think Charlie Weasley from Harry Potter).

Where did you relocate from and what inspired you to make the move to New Zealand?

I had up until very recently been working for the NHS in Hampshire, Oxford, and London. After a decade of consistently underfunded / understaffed settings, and teetering on the cusp of burnout at the ripe old age of 27, I figured it was time for change. Plus I have itchy feet and a curious mind, so was also on the lookout for a new adventure.

My biggest priorities were work-life balance, and living somewhere with an outdoorsy culture – in line with the fact that I spend most of my spare time trekking, camping, etc.

New Zealand had always been an area of interest, and won out over Australia for me personally due to having no restrictions on where I can work, its accessible (world-class) nature, and general lack of apex predators. Canada was in the running too, but I didn’t feel like dealing with snow 8 months a year…

Where in New Zealand are you located and what are you enjoying most about your new life?

I decided to come to Auckland for a host of various reasons (some of which I have outlined at the end) – and I am absolutely loving it!

That elusive, beautiful unicorn of a concept called ‘Work-Life Balance’ I mentioned earlier? Turns out it exists after all! I work 3 days a week, have the energy to meditate and exercise most days, have lost 12 kg (intentionally; fear not fellow medics), and go exploring or hiking most weekends.

I’ve only been here 3 months, but I’m happier and healthier, the country is gorgeous, and the people are friendly – the grass is definitely a lush green this side of the pond as far as I’m concerned.

How did Medrecruit support you in this process?

I honestly wouldn’t be here without Medrecruit. I hadn’t really decided what I was doing with my life when I picked up the phone to call them last year, but I’m incredibly grateful I did.

They helped with everything: advice on which country would suit me most, job search, lining up interviews, interview prep, contract negotiations, medical registration, visa processes, and generally settling in once you’re where you want to be.

From my first impressively productive conversation with Rachel, to the almost 200 emails (I counted) and many phone calls over the next ~3 months – it was a seamless, efficient process.

Do you have any advice for other IMGs who are looking to make the move?

There are about a million things to consider, but having very recently made the move, I’ve outlined some of the more important ones below.

  • Don’t be afraid! Moving country (continent) can be a daunting task, especially if you’ve never done it before – but absolutely do not let that put you off. There’s a gorgeous, thriving world out there – one that is begging to be explored, and I promise you will meet like-minded people irrespective of which nook or cranny you decide to call home next.

  • Figure out your priorities, and recalibrate expectations. I chose NZ for some of the reasons mentioned above, but I also put a lot of thought into where in NZ I wanted to be. I grew up in HK (8 million), and last lived in London (9 million), so knew living in rural Aotearoa with 6 people and 3000 sheep would probably be a shock to the system. Auckland, with ‘only’ 1 million people, is still a lot quieter than what I am used to, but I also knew it would be, and adjusted my expectations accordingly. I also knew some future priorities involved teaching, public health, and humanitarian work. Auckland houses one of NZ’s main medical schools, as well as head offices for the Ministry of Health and MSF – these nuggets of knowledge helped make my decision.

  • Cost. Moving country is an expensive affair – getting your training verified, provisional licence, indemnity, practising certificate, visa, medicals for your visa, flights, temporary accommodation, tenancy deposit, etc. So maybe save up a little before making the move (or not). But look at it as an investment. Most of us don’t do this for the money, and NZ pays a bit less than some of its neighbours, but you still earn more than the UK, pay less in tax (no NI so you save 10% off the bat), and cost of living is less.

  • Use a recruitment agency – odds are they’ll be helpful. I had looked at a few options before ringing Medrecruit; but they won out with an intuitive site, helpful articles (like this one hopefully), and an impressive list (but also importantly range) of jobs. Also, you don’t have to pay a penny, so there is literally nothing to lose.

Dr Nicky Anto's journey from the UK to New Zealand serves as an inspiring story for those in pursuit of a better work-life balance and personal fulfillment. His experiences emphasise the importance of taking risks, understanding one's priorities, and seeking professional support when making life-changing decisions.

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11 May 2023Article by Julia Medrecruit Editor