Peg_Millar_Psychiatrist.jpg

Peg - Psychiatrist, Christchurch

I am high up, sitting on a rock on Crater Rim Trail, alone with the wind, the scent of exotic plants, birds singing and the views.  There is an incredible view in every direction.  Down below me is Lytellton Harbour.  I can see it flow into the Pacific Ocean, aqua transforming into deep blue.  To the east is Brighton Beach on the Pacific Ocean.  To the North, I can see the Southern Alps and closer yet, the whole city of Christchurch, New Zealand spread below me.  This is my idea of paradise.  This view never ceases to amaze me.  And I am only 10 minutes’ drive from my home.  I LIVE HERE.  How did I get so lucky?  Well, mostly because of Prudence Shaw and Accent Health Recruitment.

My husband Eric and I had dreamed and researched long and hard about living and working overseas.  We had considered multiple English speaking countries.  Out of all that research, New Zealand seemed to be the ideal choice for work, for climate, for beautiful scenery.  We had been so excited.

It all had come to a screeching halt or maybe a dull thud. I had read about all the rules and regulations for working as a doctor in New Zealand.  The details were mind-boggling.  How could I get a job if I didn't have a medical certificate to practice medicine' But I couldn't get a medical certificate or a work visa unless I had a job offer....How was I supposed to get a job offer' I didn't even know where to start. I was completely frustrated. I had tried to contact Terry Murphy of the New Zealand Department of Labour Immigration Service. Eric had talked with him and felt that he was very helpful.

Although this was the first time that I'd talked with him, I unloaded all my frustration on him. He handled it extremely well. Terry told me that he was going to have Prudence Shaw of Accent Health Recruitment contact me. He assured me that she would be a big help.

Yeah right, I thought as I went back to my pile of paperwork in that windowless clinic office. There was always plenty of paper work at a community mental health center. Within no more than 30 minutes, my cell phone rang again. I simultaneously answered and stared in disbelief at the long telephone number on the screen. Those first two numbers, 64, meant that the phone call was from NEW ZEALAND!' "Hi, this is Prudence Shaw. I hear that you're interested in working in New Zealand." Good Lord, I thought. What a great accent. She sounds like she is going to sip tea and eat crumpets the minute she hangs up the phone. She began to ask me questions and then told me that she would send me questions to answer by e-mail. "Brilliant!" She finishes the phone call. I didn't know that that was the first of thousands of times that I would hear that expression. "Brilliant" seems to be the number one New Zealand expression for anything good.

Everything went into fast forward from there. I found out that Prudence didn't sip tea. She drinks coffee and lots of it if I were to guess from the energy that exudes from her frequent phone calls and emails. From that day onward, my husband and I spoke and emailed with Prudence more than, well, anybody else in our lives. Eric and I weren't sure that Prudence slept at all. She seemed to be always available for questions, consolation, and my neurotic ruminating. She encouraged and cajoled us through pages and pages of paper work.

In no time at all, I had a telephone job interview scheduled. It was a group interview with doctors with New Zealand accents and Australian accents. It was quite a shock to my American ears. This was English' I had to ask people to repeat questions so often that I was mortally embarrassed. But within a couple of days, I received a verbal offer for a position at the Canterbury District Health Board in Christchurch. Eric and I did a Google search on Christchurch and found that it's called Garden City on the South Island. Mild climate surrounded by spectacular scenery. It's too good to be true. No way. This can't be.

Our disbelief and wonder was soon buried in more paperwork. I think I went through 10 trees worth of paper forms and faxing. The Office Depot fax desk staff knew me by name and follow my progress with excitement. I didn't think the paperwork would ever end. And in between, Eric and I asked each other if we'd lost our minds. What are we doing giving up good jobs and a good life in upstate New York'

Oh my God, they want me to start in June 2005. My stomach seemed to twist. That was too soon! But soon our ambivalence about the proximity of the move was buried in Immigration hassles. Two weeks before we are supposed to leave, my history of medical problems, well stabilized for many years, was creating havoc at the New Zealand Immigration Department. Prudence and my new boss, Dr. Alfred Dell'ario, however, are forces to be reckoned with. The New Zealand Immigration Department was no match for those two. Two days before we leave, all the necessary paperwork arrives by courier.

I'd like to say that everything has been easy since then. I think the more accurate phrase would be that Eric and I have been on a very steep learning curve. But it is a glorious adventure in a spectacular setting. I have no regrets. Brilliant.