ANMJ Featured Story

Working abroad: Ready to explore the world?

Friday 22nd September, 2017

One of the benefits of being a nurse or a midwife is the ability to work almost anywhere in the world. The flexibility that nursing or midwifery brings also allows the opportunity to travel to a multitude of destinations while also making a living. This month the ANMJ features two of the most popular destinations for Australian nurses and midwives to work and live in. Thinking of working overseas? Find out what it’s like working and living in the Middle East and the UK in this month’s special.

Working abroad: Saudi Arabia
Experience of a lifetime

By natalie dragon
“Everyone is different and everyone will have a different experience. You cannot comprehend it until you’re here,” says Queensland emergency nurse Bambi Reichman who has been working in Saudi Arabia for the past ten months.

Bambi says she came to Saudi Arabia at a time in her life when she felt the need for a challenge professionally and also on a personal level. “I did a bit of research and looked into rural and remote areas of Australia and then started to think about international options as I have never really had the chance to travel.

“I started to look at recruitment agencies and came across CCM Recruitment. They have been amazing and have been in touch with me the whole time.

“The local culture, the people, the environment, the way of life, it’s really unique and beautiful. Not many people can say they’ve been to this part of the world; you can’t just book a flight and travel here as it is currently not open for tourism.”

Bambi grew up in Derrinallum, in country Victoria and completed her Bachelor degree at Deakin University, Warrnambool. She worked at Barwon Health in Geelong, Victoria specialising in emergency for five years and also more recently at Noosa Private Hospital in Queensland in the ED.

Working in Saudi Arabia enables the opportunity to travel and go home with a little savings, she says.

“The benefits are amazing. It’s tax free, you receive a relocation allowance, free housing, 54 days of annual leave and everything’s so close you can travel on your days off. You can be on a six-hour flight to London.

“So far I have been to Dubai, Jordan and the Greek Islands. I have an upcoming trip booked to India and Sri Lanka with two friends I have met while being here.”

Initially it was a culture shock, says Bambi. “There was a sort of awareness before I came here of what to expect but it was not until I arrived that I grasped the entirety of it, especially the dress code.

“Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women cannot drive. There is the option of Uber, regular taxis and the hospital also runs a limousine service.

“There is the call to prayer five times a day, and during this time businesses close their doors for up to 30 minutes so you have to be sure to work your daily routine around this.

“There is gender segregation in public, in coffee shops and in restaurants. The single section is for men only and the family section includes single women and families.”

Bambi says there were also initial challenges at work - the environment, policies and procedures and equipment. Language and cultural barriers were the biggest challenge, despite the use of translators.

“Working within the emergency environment, effectiveness of communication is extremely important, especially as you are the first critical point of patient contact. My Arabic is slowly improving and I guess I have found ways of adapting my usual nursing practice to be able to engage with my patients.”

“The ED is a really busy environment and the acuity of illness here is extremely high. The hospital I’m currently employed with are a national referral centre for organ transplantation, cardiovascular diseases, neuroscience and genetic disorders. People travel really long distances to come here – they may have travelled in their private family car for up to eight hours so by the time they get to us they can be quite unwell.”

Another challenge was working with people from so many different countries and their various attitudes and nursing practice.

“You meet people from all over the world, there is something like 64 nationalities working here in our hospital. I’ve made friends that will last a lifetime and have gained a newfound passion for cultural experience and travel which I never really had before.”

Bambi says expats need to develop a support network at work and socially.

“Find strategies to help with the work to life balance. It’s important to be social as it helps to keep your mind busy.”

You need to give yourself time to settle in, says Bambi. “You need to be open-minded and have the potential to be able to step out of your comfort zone.

“Don’t come with expectations. I think that way it’s easier to adapt in and outside of work.

“Before I came here some of my family and friends were a little concerned in regards to my safety and I guess I was a little nervous also but the people here are lovely and I feel very safe. I think it’s safer than any other place in the world right now.

“Due to their values and beliefs they are a very respectful culture. If you are mindful of their culture and way of life you will find respect is a two way street.”

Bambi says she has grown both professionally and personally from the experience. “The opportunity for professional growth is huge. I’ve completed my adult and paediatric advanced life support and also my neonatal resuscitation just to name a few - there are so many courses available all of which are provided by the hospital with no out of pocket expenses.

“It may sound cliche but this really has been the experience of a lifetime and I don’t regret a thing.”


Working abroad: UK
London calling

By Robert Fedele
Australian nurse Ellen Carragher counts working as a nurse in the UK the best decision she ever made.

In 2011, Registered Nurse Ellen Carragher was flicking through the latest edition of the ANMJ when an ad by a travel nurse company promoting the value of working in the UK caught her eye.

Ellen maintained a burning itch to travel and the opportunity seemed too good to pass up.“I was busting to travel and London seemed like a pretty good base.

“It’s still familiar enough, being English speaking and with the culture much the same and then a great location to go to Europe or Africa or America. It’s so much closer than we are in Australia.”

Ellen, 24 at the time, was a fledgling ED nurse with Western Health in Victoria before taking the plunge.

“I’d heard lots about nursing in the UK and how it was a bit daunting and busy and scary so I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do that too.”

After signing on with Continental Travelnurse, the complex process of ticking all the boxes prior to being allowed to work in the UK took around nine months.

The hoops involved included the reasonably difficult IELTS English test, mounds of paperwork, providing references and demonstrating placements in some specialty areas of nursing and midwifery.

The final step involved flying to the UK to complete the month-long Overseas Nursing Program (ONP), a short course that brings travelling nurses up to speed on the National Health Service (NHS) and how it operates.

“So I had to move over there without a job lined up or anything and do that course and there was a fair bit of money involved in doing the English test, getting all the paperwork done and then doing the ONP.

“But I was so keen to travel that even if I didn’t get a nursing job, I would have found something else to do.”

When Ellen’s UK nursing registration was finally approved, she linked up with St Thomas’ Hospital in central London and began a three-month stint working on its surgical ward in early 2012, followed by a further three months at the hospital’s Clinical Decisions Unit, the equivalent of a short-stay unit back in Australia.

“Starting a new job anywhere is pretty nerve-racking but starting in a new country where you don’t know anyone is really nerve-racking,” she explains.

Ellen’s first impressions working in a foreign environment hinted at noticeable differences between Australia and the UK.

For example nurses, referred to simply as staff, were still wearing tunics and pinafores and led by a matron and sister.

In terms of healthcare, Ellen says the difference in ratios immediately stood out.

“Here in Victoria, we’re pretty spoilt with our ratios. Over there, the ratios just didn’t seem to exist. I remember one shift, I was on the surgical ward and I had 14 patients. We did 12-hour shifts and you work with a buddy nurse but my buddy nurse had gone home sick at 11 early on the shift and then I had 14 post-op patients to myself.”

Ellen says the eye-opener made her better appreciate Australia’s health system and the way nurses are supported and given meaningful access to education.

Ellen suggests one of the more intriguing imprints left on her during her stay surrounded a greater sense of Florence Nightingale and the roots of the nursing profession’s evolution.

“There just seemed to be a lot more evidence of that over there. You could relate it to all the historical developments in nursing and, how nursing had evolved. You felt connected to the industry of nursing.”

Asked to pinpoint what she learnt the most from her overseas adventure, Ellen says it was a combination of overcoming personal challenges and realising the opportunities afforded in Australia.

“It was the best thing I ever did for my career and for myself because it broadens your horizons and makes you see that there’s way more than what we do here in Australia,” she says.

“But apart from a few workplace and cultural differences, the main thing I took away is that nursing is the same the world over at the end of the day.”

After finishing up at St Thomas’, Ellen worked as a live in home carer to earn some extra money while continuing to travel for the next year before returning home to Australia.

She concedes one of the scheme’s drawbacks was losing traction within the Australian health system and reveals finding it difficult to find employment upon her return.

Other downsides concerned losing the continuation of long-service entitlements and annual pay rises due to insufficient hours undertaken overseas.

Reflecting on her UK journey, Ellen says she wouldn’t change a thing and would definitely encourage fellow nurses and midwives to give it a go.

“Even if you stay in your own country and work in a different setting and different services it definitely makes you a better nurse, just to see that there’s more than one way to do something.

“But working in a different country and different health system altogether, I think just to see more, to experience more, definitely makes you a better nurse and a better professional.”


Want to work overseas?
Find the answer to your questions here.

The Middle East:

Q: Are there many job opportunities for RNs, ENs and Midwives in the Middle East?

A: The Middle East being a large region of the world hires many international hospital staff, including registered nurses and midwives from Australia. There are many employment opportunities which are ongoing due to the sheer size of the facilities (hospitals ranging up to 1,500 beds). Unfortunately the Middle East does not employ enrolled nurses due to registration requirements.

Q: Are all nurses and midwives eligible to work in the Middle East?

A: Registered nurse and midwives with a minimum of two years’ acute experience, in some cases three years, are eligible to work in the Middle East. Many countries in the Middle East also have age restrictions due to visa requirements. Discussing your experience and personal situation with a recruitment agency like CCM Recruitment will quickly determine if you are eligible for employment in the Midwdle East.

Q: What kind of job opportunities are in demand?

A: Like everywhere, nursing vacancies vary for each hospital. Generally speaking there are openings in all specialties which are ongoing, although, due to the population health needs in the Middle East, nurses with cardiac, intensive care, oncology and paediatric experience are always in high demand. You can check with your recruiter for vacancies with the particular hospital or country of interest.

Q: How risky is it for females working in the Middle East?

A: CCM Recruitment has been helping nurses travel to the Middle East for 30 years with very few issues. Most of the staff at CCM lived and nursed in the Middle East and have firsthand experience in the region. As with any hospital in Australia, the health and safety of all employees is of upmost concern and priority, with many hospitals dedicating departments responsible for nurses’ welfare. On the rare occasion a problem may occur during your stay, assistance and support is available 24/7. Nurses who respect the local laws and traditions, and who come with an open mind will find the countries an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Q: What are the advantages for Australian nurses and midwives working in the Middle East over other countries?

A: Living and working in the Middle East offers the chance to experience unique culture and traditions whilst gaining invaluable work experience in internationally renowned hospitals. Professional development is highly encouraged. Hospitals provide high standards of care in many specialties, with exposure to very different conditions and health needs to anywhere else in the world. You will have opportunities to grow both personally and professionally. Employment benefits are a great incentive for many Australian nurses, with many travelling to this region with a financial goal in mind. With some of the world’s most exciting destinations just hours away, the Middle East is also the perfect base for global travel.

The UK:

Q: What kind of job opportunities are in demand in the UK?

A: Nursing vacancies vary for each hospital so it’s best to check in advance and see what is available. Generally speaking for specialty areas, nurses are always in demand which includes: cardiac, intensive care, theatre and oncology.

Q: Are all nurses and midwives eligible to work in the UK?

A: Registered Nurses that meet UK Nursing and Midwifery Council (UK NMC) registration requirements can apply for registration. These include holding current registration in Australia without restriction; having a minimum of 12 months experience; successfully completing at least 10 years of schooling prior to nursing/midwifery education and demonstrating a high standard of English language through an English exam. This process can be more complicated for Paediatric and Mental Health nurses and Midwives and is not generally available to Enrolled Nurses.

Q: How does the pay in the UK compare to
pay in Australia?

A: A number of factors are looked at by the hospital to assess the rate of pay for each nurse such as years of experience and post graduate qualifications (recognised in the UK). The pay is relative to the cost of living. CCM have openings with private hospitals and the pay is higher compared with NHS hospitals.

Q: What are the advantages for Australian nurses and midwives to work in the UK over other countries?

A: Travel and lifestyle is most commonly the biggest reason for Australian nurses to work in the UK. Living on Europe’s doorstep opens a world of travel at much lower costs than travelling from Australia and much shorter travel times. Like any new employment opportunity, nurses can learn so much from any new work environment and different health system.

Q: Is there anything else nurses and midwives need to consider about working in the UK?

A: Nursing in the UK is achievable for everyone who is eligible. The big plus is that you don’t need years of experience to apply. Once you have 12 months experience you can get the ball rolling. Employment within the UK noted on your CV, is attractive to future employers. Commit to the registration application and take advantage of the support of a recruitment agency like CCM Recruitment and you are half way there!

Questions and answers supplied by CCM Recruitment

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