Originally from the Outer Hebrides, Cate O’Kane qualified as a Registered Nurse in 1997 and now works as a full time lecturer in adult nursing with one of Scotland’s largest university schools of health and nursing. We met her at a nursing careers fair in Glasgow and she told us about her experience of working overseas with Medacs Healthcare over 13 years ago.
Why did you decide you wanted to work abroad?
“After four years of working as a staff nurse in Glasgow Royal Infirmary I hit a crossroads in my life. I was 23 and had never worked abroad. I grew up in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, trained in Glasgow and began working in Glasgow.
“I wanted to see some of the rest of the world, but I didn’t want to be a traveller. I wanted to live, work and become part of a community somewhere. I'm incredibly proud of my Hebridean roots, but I had a pretty sheltered upbringing and so it was a huge step to decide to go off around the world on my own.”
How did you go about it?
“I saw an advert in the Nursing Times. Medacs Healthcare were advertising opportunities in New Zealand, I applied and had an interview at the agency offices in Edinburgh. I was interested in A&E as I had been working there for three years. Medacs Healthcare arranged a telephone interview with the Emergency Department in Wellington Hospital and they offered me a position.”
What was working as a nurse in New Zealand like?
“I learned more there in one year than I had in Glasgow in three! I got a lot of trauma and paediatrics experience – road traffic accident cases were high at that time. I also remember being impressed by the triage systems which were more advanced in New Zealand than they were back home.
“The nurses I worked alongside seemed very advanced in their training and were really research driven. As they were from all over the world, the knowledge exchange was fascinating and I really developed my cultural awareness working together with them.”
Would you recommend working abroad to other nurses?
“Wholeheartedly, it was the making of me and taught me I can cope with anything. It was lonely at times as I went on my own, but I think that was the best thing to do. Most of the British, Canadian and South African nurses were there on their own too so we became like family to each other.
“I feel like I have had a really amazing experience in my life. When I talk to students now and tell them some of the things I have done, it makes me feel really proud of myself. I can inspire other students to do whatever they want with their life, I did it, so can they. And I love the international perspective it has given me, not just in nursing, but being part of a community, learning about a different culture, finding out that I can cope and I can survive, I think that is the best thing this opportunity gave me.”
How would you rate the support you had from Medacs Healthcare with your move to New Zealand?
“Brilliant, they helped with all the paperwork beforehand and there was someone based in Auckland I could phone if I wanted advice or help, but after the first few weeks I didn’t need that.”
Finally, what would you tell other nurses considering working abroad?
“Go for it! My time in New Zealand was amazing and I want to tell as many nurses as possible of the opportunity they can also have.”
13 years on, Medacs Healthcare is still helping healthcare professionals like Cate to gain work experience abroad.
In addition to Australia and New Zealand, our overseas locations now include the Middle East, Singapore and Ireland. Opportunities range from one year working holidays, where nurses can travel and supplement their income by working in different hospitals along the way, to 1-2 year placements and full relocations.
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