British general medicine RMO Gabriella Paoloni wanted to move to New Zealand to work as a doctor, but the Covid-19 pandemic put a spanner in the works.
Here, she talks about what it’s like moving to New Zealand to work as a doctor during the Coronavirus pandemic, and what it was like working during the UK’s second wave.
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 where 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.”
Dr Gabriella worked with Medrecruit to complete the paperwork required to move to New Zealand as a doctor. This included completing EPIC (an electronic verification of qualifications), organising referees and applying for the right visa.
“I had applied in December 2019 and got the ball rolling in 2020. I wanted to be prepared because I am infamously unprepared. I got the ball rolling with Jess Pearson at Medrecuit. She told me to do the EPIC and get my referees sorted.”
“… Jess was really supportive. The good thing about using Medrecruit is that you just had to do the paperwork once, then Jess would send it to different hospitals… You can use the same references and CV and cover letter, but you’d have to re-send it to all the different HR departments of each hospital and they want slightly different things. Jess did that for me, so I only had to do it once (apart from for Wellington and Auckland who have separate application forms).”
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.
“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 is now very diverse from being out here.”
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.
“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.”
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