In the UK, Dr Liam Atkins was burning out under the pressure of chronic understaffing. Now, as an Urgent Care Doctor in New Zealand, he's helping to take the load off ER departments – and loving life again.
"Urgent Care is only a specialty in New Zealand and Ireland at the moment,” says Liam. "It's a mix between being a GP and an A&E doctor. I really think more people should know more about it."
Urgent Care Doctors provide after-hours care and see patients on a non-appointment basis in private clinics supported by government funding.
"The main goal of Urgent Care is to keep people out of hospitals," says Liam.
"Patients just walk into my clinic. The reason it is so good in New Zealand is ACC. It's like a no-fault accident insurance that covers everyone in the country. So accidents can be reviewed by Urgent Care doctors at little or no cost to the patient.
There's also another funding source called POAC – Primary Options Acute Care – that will fund investigations and treatments to keep medical patients out of hospital.
So if someone is dehydrated and throwing up, you can set them up with an IV drip. You can do an ECG or blood tests to rule out heart attacks in low-risk situations. You can do chest x-rays, ultrasounds, DBTs, things like that.
It takes the load off the hospital and helps patients to get care faster. It's rewarding work," Liam explains.
Working as an Urgent Care doctor has been liberating, says Liam.
"It's so much more flexible because it's private. I can say to the clinic, 'These are the days I work,' and they try and make that work. You also see patients at your own pace. We're told to expect to see about three an hour - that's 20 minutes a patient."
"If I do stay late, I'm paid for it, but if I'm working in a 24 hours clinic, I normally finish pretty much on time. Maybe 10 minutes late if I pick up that one last patient."
“It means you can make plans with friends after work. In the UK, I found it was almost impossible to have a life.”
Leaving on time is all the sweeter too, says Liam, when the whole of New Zealand is like the Peak and lakes Districts at home, but on steroids.
"I'm based in Auckland, the most populated city in New Zealand, and I can drive 40 minutes to a beach go surfing. Or I can jump on a ferry, and 30 minutes later be in a vineyard on an island."
"The work-life balance is just incredible. I definitely recommend it."
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