Ah yes. So, why do you want to move to Australia (or New Zealand) anyway?
Often accompanied by the ‘Oh so you didn’t get into CMT / A+E / [insert name of desired training track] in the UK then?’
Errr no. Actually I didn’t apply, thanks. It’s my dream to move to Australia. I’m not a half-arsed dim-wit being deported to the colonies as punishment. But if you are planning to go this route you can expect a little bit of skepticism from some of your colleagues back in the motherland. Not all of them. Just some. As you get to FY2 your future career plans become quite a hot topic, and everyone has an opinion. Colleague opinions on emigrating can generally be divided into three categories:
- The skeptics. As above. See it as a lack of commitment. An easy option. Perhaps deeply secretly envious. Highly career driven. Have got 7 published papers and a job at a super specialist tertiary unit in London. Like to tell you about their 7 publications and a job at a super specialist tertiary unit in London.
- The openly jealous types. The ones who have got a CMT / GP training job but aren’t quite sure if they want to do it. Would love to go to Australia but haven’t quite got the courage, or have too many commitments at home to take the plunge.
- The maverick. The senior doctor who’s been there and done it. Highly supportive. Loves life. Has a life outside of medicine. The kind of person I’d like to be.
Back to the question in hand. Why do I want to move there anyway?
Well I expect everyone has their own reasons, but if you aren’t sold on the idea already, here are a few of mine…
- The weather! Of course yes the bloody weather! Have you seen the weather out there? Its like sun sun sun everyday. No dark winter mornings. No months of drudgery and never seeing the sunlight. Just sun sun sun. Well, almost. Its way better than you can imagine back at home anyway. And, if like me, you like the great outdoors, it gives you way more options for your free time. Cycling to work all year round is actually a pleasurable option. You can literally go for a run on the beach before work. I have a pool at my house. Yeah. Like actually. A pool.
- Australians. (Yes really!), Australians are relaxed. And friendly. Really friendly. It actually feels like people genuinely want to help you. If you go to a shop, the people who work there actually know what products they stock and what they do. If you go to rent a car, and it’s cheaper at the place around the corner, they’ll tell you its cheaper round the corner and send you there. If you’re an ex-pat British doctor without many friends, other staff at the hospital will fall over themselves to invite you round for dinner and take you out to show you the sights and generally make sure you feel welcome and settle in well. I imagine people in Britain used to be more like this, like in the 1940’s. Before the iPod. Before they all got so busy. Poms really do whinge a lot.
- The job. OK, I have fairly limited experience (in Emergency). Two months elective placement in NZ two years ago, and now one month working here in Australia. But from what I can tell, so far, it’s a much better environment to work in that at home. There are a lot of perks of the job. I do 4-on 4-off. Only 10 hour shifts. Compared to a 12 day on streak on medicine on call including 12 hour day shifts like we used to get at home, this is unbelievable! The senior support is great, there are always three consultants ‘on the floor’ between 8am and 11pm in a 17 bed Emergency Department. And they are all pretty friendly and approachable. Being ill isn’t a crime. You are basically encouraged to stay at home if you aren’t feeling great. (You even have a set number of ‘sick days’ per year. Some unscrupulous doctors also kind of treat these days like extra days of annual leave!). I could go on. But I won’t rub your faces in it. It just all seems to add up to make my job a whole lot less stressful.
- The holidays! You get lots of annual leave. And you can take it almost whenever you want. Most hospitals have a ‘relief team’ of doctors whose entire full time job is to work in various departments covering annual leave – so you can actually take your leave when you want to take it. I get 27 days basic allowance, but then I earn more for every shift I work, which will be about an extra 10 days for the year. Apparently, I might also get an extra day off for working a Sunday, so probably about another 12 days there. Factor in my 4-on 4-off rota (sorry, ‘roster’ they call it here) and that means I only work 133 days this year. Oh, and I get a $4,000 study budget and some days of study leave too (not sure how many). Have I persuaded you yet?!
- The pay. I’m not particularly driven by money. That’s why I’m a doctor, who wants to do medicine. But, it is nice. Especially when the basic pay is about 50% more than the basic pay at home. And the ‘banding’ is done by the hour. Like 25% for after 6pm, and 50% for nights. And 100% for Sundays. Yes, the cost of living is a bit more here, but not hugely. Probably about 20%. There are also lots of tax benefits for government workers. I get a big chunk of my salary paid straight into my account tax free, and then I have these special debit cards that allow me to spend a proportion of my salary tax free on various specified items (like food, which is obviously quite handy). They also pay you every two weeks, instead of every month. I feel like a millionaire. I’ve opened a savings account and everything.
- The healthcare system. It has its flaws. Like everywhere. Its expensive compared to the NHS. Its mostly government funded but has a bigger private sector than at home. When you admit a patient, often they have private insurance and can ‘choose’ to go to a private ward. By ‘choose’ I mean, if they are not very sick, then they are allowed to go to a private ward. If they are very sick, they can’t go there because private wards won’t take any risky patients. But working in this system is great. There are more staff. Easier access to investigations. More freely available medications (anyone with pain and nausea in A+E gets ondansetron and oxycodone, and that stuff really works!). Making referrals to other specialties is relatively less like an interrogation than at home.
- The economy. They have never had the recession in Australia. Their economy is largely based on exporting raw materials, a lot of which goes to China. So their economy is more closely tied to China than at home. And, when other countries go into recession, Australia tends to do well, because people invest in commodities. The Australian dollar has been incredibly strong recently, around $1.50 to £1. Its now fallen back to more like $1.80. Which is bad news for me if I want to bring my large amount of amassed savings home next year. But good to get your friends to come and visit. I’m trying to stop comparing prices to home and think in dollars but I haven’t quite got there yet. But this booming economy means there is a lot more money going round in the country. Unemployment is low, the state of the economy is not a topic that is forefront in people’s minds. There is more of a culture of eating out and enjoying life with that seemingly more available disposable income.
- I don’t want to ‘settle down’. Take a minute. Imagine life as a CMT / Med Reg in the UK. Now imagine doing the same thing in Australia. It’s really hard to imagine going back. Yes, I miss my friends. And my family (even you, Mum). But, not that much (not yet anyway). And I can always take a few weeks off and go home for a bit if I want to. But aside from emotional angst, some ‘homely’ countryside, and the BBC, almost everything I can imagine is better here. And, I hope it stays that way.
Part of the Moving to Australia series