Dr Laura Smith on locuming in Australia and New Zealand

Locum doctor

Dr Laura Smith began her partnership with Medrecruit while practicing in Cairns, Australia, before returning to her native country New Zealand to take up a locum role in early 2023. She is now returning to Australia, ready to start a new locum role in Hobart. We caught up with Laura, to discuss her experiences working in both Australia and New Zealand, discussing the transitions between countries and what advice she has for other doctors thinking about locuming.

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

I am from Morrinsville in New Zealand. I went to Auckland medical school and I am currently PGY4. I have been accepted onto the ED training scheme starting next year.

What inspired you to start working as a locum doctor?

I moved to Australia immediately after finishing medical school in New Zealand, and the plan was to stay for a year, but with COVID and really enjoying where I was living and working, I ended up staying for 3 years. Eventually I reached a point where I was thinking about coming home to be closer to family, but I had never worked in New Zealand as a doctor before. Doing a locum year meant I could do a bit of a "try before you buy" year in order to work out which hospitals I liked or didn't like and also to decide whether I wanted to work in the New Zealand medical system or stay in Australia. It has also given me the freedom to choose my hours and when I work, which has given me a bit of a break and meant that I can spend time with family when it suits them (in Australia I had a pre-allocated 5 week block of holidays each year, I couldn't choose the dates).

Another positive to locum work is that accommodation and travel is paid for, so it has given me a bit more financial freedom to work less, whilst also putting a decent chunk away into savings.

How does Medrecruit support you in the locum process in both Australia and New Zealand?

I specifically chose Medrecruit because of the opportunities across both Australia and New Zealand. Being registered in both countries means that I have been able to explore jobs across both countries this year, and with it all being through Medrecruit this has reduced the amount of paperwork I have needed, and also meant that it has been easier to co-ordinate moving between countries. Both my agents in New Zealand and Australia have been great at keeping track of where I have been booked to work and sending through various opportunities.

What would you say are the pros and cons of working in each country as a locum?

I would say that the locum rates are significantly higher in Australia than New Zealand. In New Zealand the rates are standard across all hospitals and I think I've definitely had to work far harder in some places than others. One of the pros of locuming in New Zealand is that I have been able to work at multiple hospitals (Greymouth, Palmerston North, Blenheim, Christchurch) and it has been a great way for me to see New Zealand and also experience different hospitals that I would consider working at in the future. I would say one of the negatives has been the shorter blocks of time spent in each place, which can sometimes feel a bit de-stabilising, but this is a personal choice I made in order to increase the number of places I have worked at.

I have an upcoming job in Hobart for 10 weeks, and I would say one of the pros of that is that I am able to have some stability and stay in one place for longer which gives me time to explore between my busy work hours.

Do you have any advice for other doctors who are looking to start locuming in Australia or New Zealand?

Probably the most important thing is to work out what the scope of a job is before you take it - I have done jobs where I am the solo doctor in the hospital overnight, which I knew what I was getting into, but I think for some people could be a surprise. Medrecruit is very forthcoming with information in this respect.

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10 July 2023Article by Julia Medrecruit Editor