Working In New Zealand As A Resident Medical Officer

Dr Prashant KumarDr Prashant Kumar made his way down to New Zealand after he completed his Foundation Training in the UK, to work at Timaru in the South Island.

WHAT IS YOUR ROLE?

I’m currently working as a house officer in a district general hospital. We roll through 3 monthly rotations that include medicine, generally surgery, paediatrics, emergency medicine, obstetrics & gynaecology and anaesthetics. Our hours are very reasonable when compared to working in the NHS- our working hours are 8-4pm daily with one on call long day a week. You are also contracted to work 1-2 weekends and a set of nights every three months.

HOW FAR IN ADVANCE DID YOU APPLY FOR JOBS AND WHY DID YOU PLAN TO WORK OVERSEAS AT THIS POINT IN YOUR CAREER?

I started looking for jobs at the beginning of the year for jobs starting in August and November the same year. I felt that the break between foundation training and specialty training was a perfect opportunity to take a break, travel a bit and get more experience in a range of specialties before committing to a specialty back in the UK. I am planning on applying for training this coming year and so will come back for interviews early in 2015.

WHAT IS THE COST OF LIVING LIKE IN NZ?

The cost of living is higher than you might expect, however, this is more than compensated with the better pay and hours that you receive here compared to working in the NHS. Generally living expenses are slightly lower in the South Island compared to the North. You can expect to pay between NZ $7-12 for a pint in a pub. Groceries are more expensive than in the UK. Rent can range from anything between NZ $90/week (hospital accommodation) to NZ$ 400/week (2 bedroom flat in a desirable part of town).

WHAT KIND OF CASES HAVE YOU MANAGED?

I have seen a lot more trauma cases due to the fact that lots of kiwis are adrenaline junkies or farmers who spend a lot of their days playing with big machines! The infections you see here are quite different to the UK as well, as there are not so many drug-resistant bugs here.

HOW DID YOU FIND THE NZ IMMIGRATION AND REGISTRATION PROCESS?

Once you have secured a job, the registration and immigration process can be a long and drawn out affair. You need to get provisional registration with the council, a working visa, and indemnity. Note that you may need additional forms such as a police certificate depending on your individual circumstances. Whilst the initial outlay will cost over NZ$ 2000, a lot of it can be reclaimed from the hospital you work in (e.g. Registration, Indemnity etc.) See my article in the BMJ Careers  for a more exhaustive list.

WHAT DO YOU GET UP TO OUTSIDE WORK?

Living in New Zealand has been brilliant as we have a much better work-life balance. We have travelled all over the island, and the outdoors scene is incredible. Kayaking, white water rafting, mountain biking, sand dune-boarding, hiking all on our doorstep! Not to mention the ski season is right round the corner with the nearest ski field only an hour away!

WHAT GENERAL ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE FOR DOCTORS PLANNING TO WORK IN NZ?

I would advise anyone wanting to come here to plan well in advance and prepare your CVs accordingly as securing jobs is much harder now than it has been in the past. But with some persistence and good organization, it is most definitely possible. Once out here, you won’t regret it!