Nursing downunder: an Irish nurse's experience

5 October 2015

Young Irish nurse GRACE McDONALD shares how and why she chose to get her OE nursing experience down here in NZ. Kiwis are overly keen on being barefoot, their houses are cooler inside than out but their wildlife is benign and overall she reports nursing downunder is being a fantastic experience.

If, like myself, you enjoy travelling, meeting new people and further your nursing career then I would highly recommend a leap from your comfort zone.Grace McDonald 227KB

Nursing to me is a profession, a career, a passion and a sacrifice. I started my nursing degree on my 21st birthday at a university in Northern Ireland. After three years I was awarded a scholarship to study and work abroad for one year, where I spent ten months in the United Sates and two months in Finland. My first job as a fully qualified registered nurse was in a busy level two trauma centre and emergency department in England. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was an amazing experience both professionally and personally. 

But, I wanted something more, a new experience, a new lifestyle and New Zealand had the answer. Many career paths are very transferable in today's society, none more than nursing. So many countries are in need of nurses.

As a nurse there are several big countries to choose from including Canada, Australia and Saudi Arabia. For me none of these were appealing. Saudi nurses are extremely well paid, however, there are lifestyle restrictions and the heat would kill me. And if the heat didn't kill me in Australia I thought surely some creature would. I chose New Zealand as it was an English-speaking country, had many links to the United Kingdom, is known worldwide for its beauty and outdoor activities…and has less dangerous wildlife. To me it was, and is, perfect. I suppose you could call what I'm doing an OE but I feel this is a life experience, and perhaps an extended one.

I started the process of moving to New Zealand in February this year and by the end of May I had made the move. It does take time and effort to move country; including applying for visas, saving your pennies, vaccine updates, becoming registered with the Nursing Council of New Zealand and then the dreaded packing up your life. I applied for multiple jobs prior to arriving, mostly in acute areas as that was my field of expertise. After four weeks I began working in an accident and medical clinic, which was a great experience but I missed the acute setting. Once I had a foot in the door with my first New Zealand nursing job everything was so much easier. I started to get replies to my job applications and recently moved to a busy emergency department in one of Auckland's major hospitals.

In my department there are a high number of ex-pats which makes it easier. They range from nurses, like myself, who have just arrived to those who moved here 30 years ago. New Zealand is a long way from everywhere else, therefore being able to make friends, make memories, explore the country or just talk about homesickness and the things you miss can be really helpful.

Nurses trained in the UK and New Zealand are very similar in many ways and to be honest I haven't found many differences when it comes to actual nursing. There are also many similarities and differences with regards to healthcare between UK and here. Both are ahead and behind each other in multiple areas. For example years ago an initiative to protect meal times was introduced in the UK and I read that only six months ago this initiative was brought to New Zealand. But New Zealand medication and preparation appear to be more advanced than the UK. I think as nations we learn from each other, each growing and developing in different stages

There are some differences I am still getting used to; such as people walking bare foot and why its colder inside the house than outside. I love the outdoorsy spirit of this country and its opportunities to climb a mountain, paddle a canoe to an offshore island or explore glaciers. One thing I am not excited about is a warm Christmas!

Yes, New Zealand is a long way away but it so far has proven a fantastic experience for my career and life. Of course I miss my family but with Facetime and Skype the world has never felt so small…just remember that time difference! I would strongly recommend having an overseas experience at least once in your life. 

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