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MAR 30/2015

Kiwi Doctor Jobs: the benefits of working as a GP in New Zealand

Kiwi road signNew Zealand is now a popular choice for doctors and GPs looking to relocate, offering a whole host of lifestyle and work-based advantages.

A large part of the country’s appeal is based upon its spectacular natural beauty and outdoor culture – the Kiwis have a nationwide passion for sports and outdoor activities and the South Island is the veritable birthplace of extreme adventure sports like skydiving and bungee jumping. New Zealand also offers sunnier weather and much more space; with just 16 people for every square km (compared to 253 in the UK) pollution and congestion simply aren’t a problem - even in its` capital cities.

For those with families there are even more benefits; New Zealand has an excellent welfare support service, an internationally recognised education system that is largely free, and extremely low crime rates (NZ ranks as the world’s third safest country).

However, recent research suggests it’s not all about the lifestyle benefits. One of the main factors driving healthcare professionals towards Australasia is the prospect of less stress and a dramatically better work-life balance. Last year, Auckland was ranked third in the world for quality of life (after Vienna and Zurich) and recent surveys suggest Kiwis are amongst the happiest (and interestingly most productive), workers in the world.

To illustrate the different working patterns, we asked Dr Rob Chadwick, a British GP who has spent the past 2 years working in Dunedin (NZ South Island) to describe his day:

I typically get up between 6 and 6.45am, depending on when my 4 year old son wakes up. When I was in the UK my alarm was set for 6.15am weekdays to leave the house as soon after 7am as possible. Since getting to NZ I don't set an alarm.

I leave the house around 8.15am, with a 15 minute drive to work. Morning session starts at 8.45am and I see patients in 15 minute appointments until 12pm with a break for morning tea around 10am.

Lunch is 12-2pm in which time I catch up with admin, have lunch and have been known to go for a run or pop home for lunch.

I typically do about 2-3 home visits per week - more than most because I have opted to do so. Many of my colleagues don't do any at all. These would be done in the lunch period. I used to consider 2 home visits a day in the UK a quiet day!

Afternoon session is 2-5pm and there is a break for afternoon tea around 3pm. I have NEVER been home later than 6pm and if I'm on call I come home for dinner with the family before going back in around 7.15pm. I can work on call from home if I wish but it is usually a good opportunity to catch up on admin and referrals.

On a Thursday I go to a rural practice in Middlemarch (85 km away) for a morning session which gives mea good variation of practice from city to isolated communities. To get there I leave the house at 8.15am for a 9.30am start and get back to base by lunchtime.

Rob says the main difference between working in the UK and New Zealand is the work-life balance he can achieve as a result of less stress and a much less intense working schedule. He says the admin workload is far more manageable, there is more patient contact time and he gets good support from secondary care services, which are better integrated with primary care practice than they are in the UK.

He says since relocating he is enjoying his work again, and it is a pleasure working with the Kiwis, who seem to have a friendlier and more laid back attitude. Rob also appreciates the antipodean approach to medicine in general, which he describes as ‘less defensive’. For him the downsides are mainly related to the sheer distance as holidays in the UK with young children need to be planned well in advance (it is 2 days travelling each way). He also said he found the process of applying for work visas and residency more time consuming and costly than he had envisaged.

Rob’s top tip for doctors or GPs looking to make the move is to carefully investigate the area where you’ve been offered a job to ensure it is the right place for you and your family to be. He also recommends looking into 2 year contracts as the visa application process for those can be easier to complete.

To work in New Zealand, doctors need a minimum of 33 months experience and registration is straightforward - taking just 20 days to complete. As with Australia, locum roles can be a good initial option for doctors looking to relocate to New Zealand as they can get a taster on a working holiday visa and a foot in the door with a potential employer before committing to a permanent move. 

Salaries tend to be comparative with the UK and whilst they are not as high as they are in Australia, New Zealand does have a lower cost of living than most countries (including the UK and Australia) and also benefits from a low inflation rate. Right now the property market in Auckland and Christchurch is also very strong, with excellent returns for investors.

For more information about job opportunities for doctors and GPs in New Zealand email or contact our Auckland or Christchurch offices direct on 0064 9 630 1769.

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