The year was 2020 and I was working in my busy Michigan emergency department with great staff. I felt some frustration, however; health care was after me.
I have had patients with constricting chest pain leave the AMA because their insurance did not cover an observation stay. I struggled to help needy patients who couldn’t afford insulin or an EpiPen. The frustration seemed to stem not from one thing but from a myriad of issues to which I couldn’t find a good answer. And COVID was everywhere, and I thought about the future.
I realize 2020 was only nine months ago, but emotionally it’s been 753 months.
Australia and California had disastrous fires in 2020. Brexit finally happened, and even Prince Harry and his wife Meghan retired from the royal family. Swarms of locusts have decimated East Africa. People worried anxiously about murder hornets and Harvey Weinstein was locked up. Also, the coronavirus has arrived.
The world went into quarantine as many hoarded hundreds of rolls of toilet paper. Emergency physicians across the country have faced surges and tragedies never seen before. We wanted to get back to normal.
But normal may never return. In fact, we may need to change our definition of normalcy. We want a normal that’s more normal than our current normal, but chances are the new normal won’t be the most normal that we can normalize.
My wife and I discussed moving overseas last summer. It’s something we’ve always wanted to do, way before COVID. We thought we might move after our offspring went to college or sometime later, but it always seemed in the future.
Like many talks about the future, however, the idea remains a dream that never really comes true unless you take that first step into the unknown. But where? And, if not now, when? So why not now?
We asked friends, family and acquaintances. We asked our resident friends who had traveled abroad about their experiences. In the end, after several long discussions, we determined that New Zealand was the best place for us.
Why New Zealand?
We considered New Zealand as a potential destination for several reasons. On the one hand, it has a high quality of life. The country prides itself on work-life balance, and the importance of family and spending time with loved ones is embedded in the culture.
The people of New Zealand are also renowned for their hospitality and friendliness. I have found this to be true in my interactions with New Zealanders through my job and housing searches and certification process. I have always found warmth and friendliness in all my interactions.
New Zealand has also returned to some semblance of normalcy due to its excellent response to COVID. The short version goes like this: New Zealand leaders realized in early March 2020 that they lacked the capacity for testing and contact tracing to mitigate the spread. The country has implemented a nationwide lockdown of its five million people, led by science-based decisions.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described their approach as a team of five million against the virus. The country had halted community spread of the disease in June. New Zealand has so far recorded around 2,800 total cases and 26 deaths in a country of five million people. This represents 0.05% of the infected population, compared to more than 10% of the American population so far.
Excited for the future
Then there is the beauty of New Zealand. Have you seen “The Lord of the Rings”, “Avatar” or “The Hobbit”? New Zealand has some of the most stunning landscapes in the world. The country is incredibly scenic with a multitude of wonderful hiking trails and campsites. I’ll just have to be careful to avoid the Nazgûl.
I have been told that your health care is almost fully covered if you live in New Zealand. Lawsuits against physicians are extremely rare unless there has been gross negligence. Granted, all healthcare systems have limitations and issues, and I’m sure there is a balance with the new benefits. I’ll write more about this as I gain experience, but for now I’m just going from the experiences of others.
New Zealand has no venom…whatever. From my limited research, there is only one poisonous animal in New Zealand, a rare spider. There are no snakes on the island. There are, however, penguins, seals, and kiwis (the bird, not the fruit), all of which are adorable.
And tea time and a hot meal are provided every shift; it’s supposedly in my contract. I’ll assume it’s pure fantasy until I see it firsthand.
I could go on. Admittedly, I am currently writing this article while in 14-day isolation, which is still required for anyone entering the country, so my knowledge is limited. Time will tell, but I’m excited for the future.
Dr Brandtis an emergency physician currently working in New Zealand (after 12 years in Michigan). Read his blog and other articles onhttp://brandtwriting.com, follow him on Twitter@brandtwriting, and listen to his ED comedy podcast, “EpineFriends,” which can be found onhttp://apple.co/3d9Nco2. Read his old REM columns onhttp://bit.ly/EMN-BrandtsRants.