Working Abroad

Working Abroad


Working abroad is an experience of a lifetime. In an article published by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, they interviewed nurses working abroad. Here are their stories:

Working abroad: Saudi Arabia
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 Ð 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." *

* Source:Ê
** Source:Ê

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Working abroad is an experience of a lifetime. In an article published by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, they interviewed nurses working abroad. Here are their stories: Working abroad: Saudi Arabia By Natalie Dragon ÒEveryone is different and everyone will have a different experience. You cannot comprehend it until youÕre here,Ó says Queensland emergency