Psychiatrist moves from UK to New Zealand

Leaving behind the pressures of the NHS. For Rachel Goldspink, finishing her specialist psychiatry training in New Zealand has been a chance to escape the stress of working for Britain’s National Health Service.

“I loved working in acute psychiatry, but was considering retraining in another speciality or even finding an alternative career to medicine,” she says.

“I was lucky to work with exceptional people but it increasingly felt that services were surviving on the goodwill of staff. It felt unsustainable.”

Rachel now says she has a better personal and professional life ahead of her in New Zealand.

“Our quality of life has improved infinitely since making the move.”


Leaving Britain

Rachel and her husband, Chris, had visited New Zealand while on a round-the-world trip a decade ago and decided it was where they wanted to live if they started a family.

By 2017, they were living in Manchester with their two children – Isaac, now five, and Matilda, three.

Chris had a high-pressure job as deputy principal of a large primary school, and Rachel had been struggling to cope with the stress of working with an over-stretched mental health system.

“In psychiatry, your patients are one of the poorest and most vulnerable groups in society. I had stopped enjoying my job because I didn’t feel I could deliver the kind of service that patients deserved. The system felt broken,” says Rachel.

She had stepped away from her training to work in the private sector, but her strong belief in the right to free healthcare for all meant this would only ever be temporary.

“There was also a catalogue of other factors, from the ludicrously high cost of childcare to the time we spent commuting to work. We decided we were ready to leave.”

Transferable training

Rachel signed up with a recruitment agency, Accent Health Recruitment, and discovered she could complete her specialist training in New Zealand.

She joined a training programme run by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists in Hamilton, in the Waikato region of the central North Island.

Rachel works as a registrar in a public hospital run by Te Whatu Ora - Waikato, one of 20 Districts that provide free essential healthcare.

She recently applied to have her British training recognised in New Zealand. If successful, she hopes to be able to complete her training in about 24 months, and will then apply for a consultant job as a psychiatrist with Te Whatu Ora Waikato.

Better support

Rachel says she feels better supported as a trainee in New Zealand than she did in the UK.

“It’s much clearer what is expected of you in New Zealand. Rotas are better staffed and educational supervision is of a high standard,” she says.

She finds people in New Zealand more laidback and approachable than in Britain and says medicine seems to have less of an entrenched class system. Another bonus is that she’s earning more than she did in the UK.

Rachel’s one of three UK doctors on her training programme, which has attracted psychiatry trainees from all over the world.


Happier children

Rachel and Chris enjoy living in Hamilton, particularly the better weather, shorter commutes, outdoor lifestyle and more relaxed pace of life.

Chris works part-time teaching leadership skills to children, which leaves him free to do the kindergarten run.

“Isaac used to bite his nails because he hated after-school care, but he’s stopped doing that now. The children are much happier here, and we no longer feel that we are working to pay others to raise the children,” says Rachel.

Rachel’s parents recently spent five weeks in New Zealand, and are planning to come back for two months next year.

“My parents absolutely loved New Zealand,” says Rachel.

“Mum initially struggled with our decision to move to New Zealand, but after she’d visited us and seen the lives we have here she wrote us a letter saying we’d made the right choice.

“Although we knew that in our hearts already, having her say that meant so much to us.”

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