Young Kiwi Christine Stanley has opted to put nursing aside for a year and be a carer in the UK.

In April last year 25-year-old Kiwi nurse Christine Stanley headed off on her OE.

After six weeks travelling through the US and Canada she arrived in the UK keen to get a job, save some money and travel through Europe.

This is a familiar path that thousands of Kiwi nurses have followed before her. In the ’50s they went by ship and in the ’70s many travelled overland via the hippy trail but the most common OE destination was the ‘mother country’, England, where New Zealand nurses could typically easily get nursing jobs, earn some money, travel and gain some experience in some of London’s top teaching hospitals at the same time.

But since 2005 registering as a nurse in the UK as a non-EU trained nurse has become increasingly more complex and expensive, resulting in Stanley being part of a new generation of Kiwi nurses on their UK OE who opt to put nursing aside for a while to work as live-in carers.

Stanley graduated in late 2014 from the University of Auckland nursing school and went to work in the surgical ward of a private hospital. With two years’ experience under her belt, she decided to follow her sister and some non-nursing mates and head off.

Initially she planned to just be away for six months so didn’t think the complex and costly UK RN registration process was worth pursuing, and having heard about live-in care work she decided it sounded a much simpler option. She has now stretched her OE plans to closer to 15 months – long enough away to see a good chunk of the world but not too long from nursing to put her annual practising certificate (APC) in jeopardy.

Stanley is in the UK on a Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) visa that allows 18–30-year-olds from New Zealand (and seven other eligible countries) to work in the UK for up to two years.  

She is based in Oxford, working for agency Oxford Aunts as a level-four carer working with complex clients needing advanced-level carers. Her first client was for just a month and she has been with her second, who requires a hoist to get in and out of bed, since August.

“The downside of live-in care obviously is that you do sacrifice a bit of your social life but it is really worth it for the experience of giving one-on-one care to a person. You can really make a positive difference to their life.”

The sacrifice is rewarded by free board and food, a combination that has allowed her to save funds to travel around Europe and Asia with mates, plus have the security of slipping back into the same job on her return to UK as a reliever steps in to look after her long-term client while she takes leave.

In September she went to France, Italy and Germany for about a month; in November she spent two weeks in Europe; and she has recently returned from India and Sri Lanka and another trip to France.

Stanley says her actual hourly pay rate is similar to what she received as an RN for less stressful work, but she works more hours. Typically her contract is for 8–10 hours’ work a day – spread across the day for when her client needs her –  but she has a three-hour break outside the house once a day, and once a week a reliever provides an eight-hour break, during which she can visit friends in London or head elsewhere on a day trip.

Stanley is planning to return in home in July. She says she is not tempted to stay on and seek registration, even though there appear to be nursing jobs available from what she saw online.

“The trouble is that the pay of nursing jobs is not very good in the UK – I think it’s almost worse than New Zealand from my limited research. Also if you are going to live in London to nurse, the cost of living is insane.”

For now she is planning to return to work in a surgical or medical setting to broaden her nursing skills. But she says her time as a live-in carer has made her passionate about aged care and sparked her interest in working in this area in the future. But first she has one final big trip to do before she finishes her OE and heads back downunder to resume her nursing career.


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