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Webinar: Working locum tenens in New Zealand

Ask me anything webinar illustration

Locumstory.com’s Dr. Rip Patel recently sat down with Dr. Jenny O’Driscoll and Dr. Diane Weissman to discuss their experiences working as locum tenens physicians in New Zealand. You can watch the full webinar below.

We didn’t get to all of the questions that were submitted. Here are Dr. Weissman and Dr. O’Driscoll’s answers to those questions:

Dr. Weissman

  • Do the locals welcome you into the community? Yes, they welcomed me warmly and were very appreciative of my being there.
  • How did you get time off/vacation during your time there? My contract allowed up to 20 (unpaid) days off during the year, and NZ has a number of public holidays.  Some primary care clinics are closed for extra days over the Christmas and New Year holidays, which gives docs a week or two off.
  • How busy were your days? Number of patients seen? Quite busy until the lockdown, when we went to telephone/virtual visits and it was slow.  The scheduling was very similar to the US.  My clinic scheduled patients every 15 minutes and there were very few “no shows.”  But there is a 15 minute “tea break” both in the morning and afternoon which helps you catch up.  The documentation is less cumbersome so overall you have more time for the patients.
  • How does malpractice insurance work? It was provided/included under my contract.  My understanding is that malpractice claims are quite rare in NZ.
  • Why is there such a need for PCP’s from out of the country?  I believe there are not enough primary care doctors and even fewer in underserved areas such as lower income towns and neighborhoods and rural areas.
  • How are the children psychiatric conditions treated/managed in NZ? I believe similarly to in the US.
  • To what degree are the names of medications different from the US (i.e paracetamol is acetaminophen in the US)? In my opinion they are actually quite similar.  There are few exceptions and a few medications that are commonly used here are surprisingly not available, such as diphenhydramine.
  • Was there a difference in the prevalence of depression in your practice in New Zealand versus home?  I found it to be similar; I practiced in a lower income area there and had practiced in lower income areas here in the US.
  • Is there a fairly collegial relationship with specialists?  They are helpful but like in the US, when making a referral to an admitting physician at the busy hospital it is not uncommon for that individual to “pass the buck,” asking you to call a different registrar (resident).

Dr. O’Driscoll

  • Do the locals welcome you into the community? Mostly it was the staff who were extremely welcoming and went out of the way to make us feel welcome and comfortable.
  • How did you get time off/vacation during your time there? Yes, it all depends on your site, but they were very easy to accommodate vacation.
    I got around 10 days of extra vacation. I was able to shift my schedule to work four days a week and have a three day weekend. This allowed us to travel to lots of places too on my off days.
  • How busy were your days? Number of patients seen? Pre-Covid it was very busy, 20 to 30 patients per day. But they never really pushed me to go faster or slower. New Zealand is so laid back. They also made sure I got three breaks during my shifts.
  • How does malpractice insurance work? My recruiting company paid for the insurance. New Zealand has low rates of physicians being sued.
  • Why is there such a need for PCP’s from out of the country? Like many places, rural areas are in need of doctors.
  • How are the children psychiatric conditions treated/managed in NZ?I would often refer to the hospital psychiatry team or pediatric team for help and send patients to the hospital.
  • Are the names of medications different from the US (i.e paracetamol is acetaminophen)? Not too bad. The issue more is that there is a limit of medications that New Zealand has. Because all medication is extremely subsidized (which is amazing, patients literally are paying pennies, children get them for free) there is a limit of what is available to prescribe.
  • Was there a difference in the prevalence of depression in your practice in New Zealand versus home? No, it was the same amount.
  • Is there a fairly collegial relationship with specialists? YES! I found the specialists super helpful and amenable to seeing patients when I would need to refer to the hospital. Very easy to communicate. No need to do a song and dance for them to see them.  

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