How We Compare To The NHS’s Medical Battlefield
From a global perspective, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is a “battlefield” where you can expect to work above and beyond what Australians would call normal. You’ll be placed on a 12 day night shift roster and that’ll be considered a normal shift.
This week, I caught up with an emergency physician in a tertiary center in Australia. He studied and trained in the UK and under the NHS as a junior surgeon at Royal Free Hospital, specialising in hepatic, pancreaticobiliary and liver transplantations.
He tells me working under the NHS is demanding, but clinically rewarding. However, it leaves little time for social and/or family life.
Moving to Australia has been a big lifestyle change for him. His Australian colleagues get flustered when they see 20 patients in the emergency wait room and politely laughs this off as he has seen more than 100 patients in the NHS wait room before – with some expecting to wait 12 hours or more before being seen.
Living by the sea has him engaged in all types of water sports. He’ll stop at a cafe for brunch on the way to work (as an Emergency Department (ED) doctor) and never have to work 12 days in a row on night shift, although typically he’ll work 4-5 nights in a row. In turn this offers a greater work-life balance, which he prefers. He particularly enjoys ‘boozy breakfast’ where clinical staff meet for breakfast after a night roster and celebrate together with cooked breakfast and champagne.
Australia definitely has its perks. You would never wait 12 hours in an emergency wait room and although patients get upset when they have to wait longer than two hours, it doesn’t compare to the NHS.
This doctor is currently applying for a position as an anaesthetist registrar. It is extremely competitive as only 120 people are interviewed every year and your performance in the interview dictates your position in the queue to get an offer. Usually they only offer about 10 – 15 jobs per year as it depends on availability. If you don’t get one, you have to reapply next year.
This particular doctor ranked in the top 15 of the pool, so has a good chance at getting offered a job. He puts this down to being well prepared for the interview by learning a couple of handy strategies that allow him to answer any question in depth. He also has excellent interpersonal skills which he tells me will go a long way in the interview and medical profession in general.
What I learnt from this doctor is that we are in fact lucky with the state of hospital care currently available in Australia and with the amount of resources we have. It pays to be well prepared for interviews because as a doctor, interviews don’t end after getting into medical school. Each specialty has its separate medical style interview so I will make sure to develop this skill in the future.