By Dr. Neville Wilson
The process of recruiting Irish doctors to distant locations is currently in full swing .
Kindersley Clinic, in Saskatchewan, Canada, invites GPs to apply for 6 advertised positions as Family Physicians (Oct 22, 2012)
(In Canada you will be called a Family Physician, or Physician & Surgeon, but not a “GP” ! )
Irish doctors may be tempted to consider the many professional and lifestyle benefits available through relocation to rural Canada or Australia, and while departure from the Irish Health Services represents a regrettable loss of valuable manpower, with widespread repercussions for health services at home, the personal and professional gains of working within a sophisticated and efficient Health Care system cannot be discounted, added to which are easily manageable working conditions, adequate recreational opportunities, and better remuneration rewards.
I have lived and worked in both of these countries and can vouch for the distinct personal and professional advantages of such an enterprise.
While the attractive features of professional and recreational life in each of these two countries will be proudly highlighted by recruiting agents, a degree of cultural shock must be anticipated as aspiring recruits plant themselves in unfamiliar territory.
Rural Canada is geographically vast and ethically diverse, and the standard of living at the higher end of the scale, with fewer banking restrictions than currently experienced in Ireland.
The multicultural flavor of Canadian life will invariably manifest itself in your social, recreational and professional activities, and you may also find yourself working alongside colleagues from other countries.
As you lose your connections with cherished national sporting activities back home, you will soon transfer your attention to gridiron football and ice hockey, and may even acquire a few “pucking” skills on the local curling rink. (Every small town in Canada has an ice rink. )
Winters in Saskatchewan can be brutal, with temperatures as low as -20C, while prairie blizzards can push the thermometer down to -40 C. Specialised winter woolies and boots are an absolute necessity during these bitter months, but they do give way to predictable summers (unlike Ireland) during which T shirts and shorts would be appropriate for the comfortable temperatures of 20 C TO 35 C.
Sight seeing will not be at the top of your activity list, as the sparse, flat prairies could prompt melancholic recollections of the contrasting Irish terrain, tucked away in memory lane.
You will, however, be impressed by the vast expanses of stunning yellow canola in flower, against a backdrop of deep blue cloudless summer skies, interrupted only by box-shaped grain elevators dotted across the endless prairies.
Canada is the world’s largest producer of Canola, used widely as a cooking oil and salad dressing. She is also the world’s 7th largest producer of wheat, with sales looking promising in the wake of a severe draught in the US. Midwest.
The snow swept prairies, during the icy winter months, are a classical winter wonderland post-card picture, and you will certainly try your hand (and legs) at cross-country skiing.
Medical practice is very different to what you will have experienced in Ireland, and not only will hands -on medicine be an exhilarating inevitability, it will often be mandatory, and don’t be surprised if you acquire new skills during your sojourn.
Since most rural practices are attached to a small District Hospital, the family physicians take responsibility for primary and secondary patient care, and you will be attending to out-patient, as well as in-patient challenges, as well as to emergency admissions on your nights or week-ends on call.
Kindersley has a well equipped operating room (OR), emergency room (ER), and laboratory facilities, and any surgical and resuscitation skills you may have acquired will be put to good use. Don’t be surprised to find your GP colleagues performing tonsillectomies, C-Sections, circumcisions, and a wide range of surgical procedures. There are no “consultants” in the rural areas! You are it !
I was invited to provide obstetric services to the Kindersley Practice in the early nineties, and welcomed the opportunity for such a diversity of patient care and practice.
It would be a recommendation to have gained proficiency in the ATLS and ACLS prior to undertaking any rural appointment , either in Canada or Australia.
Your earnings in Canada are likely to be higher than experienced in Ireland, and procedural work can attract additional income. Most of the doctors who have worked in Canada have managed to increase their savings potential and can afford the “extras” previously denied.
Unlike Ireland, the Canadian economy is currently in expansion, rather than recession, and you will have no difficulty negotiating a loan for home or car purchase, should you decide to make your move a permanent one.
The MEDICARE health care system is operative throughout the Provinces of Canada, allowing it’s populace to access a wide range of services free at the point of delivery.
Registration for a Provincial License to practice medicine is processed through application to the College of Physicians & Surgeons, Saskatchewan, who will expect you to prepare for, and sit, the Medical Council of Canada Evaluating Exam (MCCEE), without which you may not practice in Canada for longer than 5 years.
Rural Canada ( Saskatchewan , Manitoba and Alberta) offers many challenging and rewarding opportunities for doctors who wish to apply themselves to broad spectrum medical care.
Applications from Irish, Australian , South African, New Zealand and UK medical graduates are likely to be successful, as medical protocols in these countries share a common pattern.
You will, however, experience departures from some standard nomenclature, such as epinephrine instead of adrenaline, and Tylenol, (acetaminophen) as the popular antipyretic and analgesic, instead of Paracetamol.
If you ask the ER nurse for a torch you will flummox her, until she discovers that you mean a flashlight ! And if you happen to mention that your skis are in the boot of your car, you will get an even stranger look, until she discovers that you actually mean the trunk of your car !
South Africa provided the major reservoir for doctor recruitment during the 80s and 90s, until the South African Government took the Canadians to task for “ poaching their doctors”. The massive exodus of South African doctors was subsequently restricted by political pressure on the Canadian government.
At that time more than 50% of rural practices and Hospitals were staffed by South Africans, and currently 20% – 25 % of practicing physicians in Saskatchewan are South African trained.
Many of them have made Canada their permanent home.
Hopefully, Ireland will not be forced to lodge a complaint on similar grounds against the Canadian government in the years to come !
The Canadians are a warm and friendly people who value the medical services provided for them by foreign nationals.
They will welcome you heartily and embrace you as one of their own, and my experience is that they will do everything to prolong your stay in Canada.
Dr. Neville Wilson,
The Leinster Clinic,