SIMG stories: All the way to Albany
29 August 2023
Dr Shireen Edmends is an anaesthetist living in Albany, Western Australia.
Shireen tells us about her experience as a specialist international medical graduate (SIMG) and the journey to receiving a fellowship of ANZCA (FANZCA).
Our journey to Albany started with answering an advert from a recruitment agency. This was quickly followed by an online interview, courtesy of Teams (at some unearthly hour!) due to COVID restrictions on air travel.
As I was an overseas graduate, my offer was delayed while they sorted the financial details out, but I used this time wisely to start preparing for my application as a specialist in Australia. Thankfully my recruitment agency’s information sheet and checklist were very useful, and slowly the jobs got ticked off. I was a bit alarmed at the amount of paperwork, and the cost of filling out the forms and collecting evidence; as well as getting documents certified – I was warned, but it did still seem like a lot! I was fortunate that I had squirreled away a lot of old documentation, but still had to go into the loft to retrieve a lot of stuff; as well as finding documents on the computer to fill in the SIMG application form.
The next interview was with ANZCA in Melbourne. This was done online, and the panel were in one room at the college. I must admit I was a tad nervous about this, as I had already invested a lot of time and effort up to this stage. I needn't have worried though, as it was pretty routine and they were lovely. After some to-ing and fro-ing with AHPRA and undergoing a medical we finally got our visas – and at last we were off!
We arrived in Albany to some lovely weather and had a few days break before I started work. Everyone was lovely, kind and helpful while I was finding my feet – they still are! WA Country Health Service gave us accommodation and a hire car till we got our own transport and accommodation sorted, which gave us some breathing space while we were finding our feet.
Fortunately, I had worked in Australia many years before. I remembered that some drugs and equipment that I used in the UK were not available here (and vice versa), and this was still the case. However, I do feel I have autonomy within the constraints of resources available. The terminology does take a bit of getting used to, but I was soon up and off pretty quickly. The regional hospital is busy enough and has a good support structure with all basic facilities on site and good links with the tertiary units. The theatre list times are a bit earlier than the UK, but finish significantly sooner, allowing plenty of time for lovely walks on the beach or to do whatever activity one wishes to.
The next stage of the process was preparing for my performance assessment (PA). I started preparing as soon as feasible after I was informed of the date. This turned out to be good advice from my colleagues, as arranging interviews with very busy people is time-consuming. The hospital kindly “lent” me some administrative help to set up the day of my PA – absolutely essential in hindsight! The medical records team were also very helpful in getting the 20 sets of notes required, although I did spend many an evening photocopying the relevant information and redacting patient details. The team assessing me on the day were very considerate, and although I can’t say I actually “enjoyed” the experience; it was an informative and educational journey. The college responded very quickly, so I was not kept waiting and able to get my FANZCA within a few weeks.
Australia is definitely more expensive than the UK, and really far from a lot of things. However, the beautiful scenery, wildlife and slower pace of life does offset this. All in all, this move has allowed me some head space to enjoy my work-life balance; and I get to spend it in a beautiful country!