The year was 2020, and I was working in my busy Michigan emergency department with a wonderful staff. I felt some frustration, however; health care was picking at me.
I had patients with crushing chest pain leave AMA because their insurance would not cover an observation stay. I struggled to help needy patients who could not afford insulin or an EpiPen. The frustration seemed to stem not from a single thing but a multitude of problems to which I could not 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 feels 753 months ago.
Australia and California had disastrous fires in 2020. Brexit finally happened, and even Prince Harry and his wife Meghan brexited themselves from the royal family. Locust swarms decimated east Africa. People anxiously fretted over murder hornets, and Harvey Weinstein got locked up. Also, coronavirus happened.
The world quarantined while many hoarded hundreds of rolls of toilet paper. Emergency physicians around the country faced surges and tragedies never seen before. We longed to return to normal.
But normal may never come back. In fact, we may need to change how we define normal. We want a normaler normal than our current normal, but likely the new normal will not be the normalest normal we can normal.
My wife and I discussed moving abroad last summer. It was something we always wanted to do, long 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 discussions of the future, however, the idea remains a dream that never really happens unless you actually 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 residency friends who had traveled overseas about their experiences. Ultimately, after several lengthy discussions, we determined New Zealand was the best location for us.
Why New Zealand?
We considered New Zealand a potential destination for several reasons. For one, 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 ingrained in the culture.
The people in New Zealand are also renowned for hospitality and kindness. I found this to be true in my interactions with New Zealanders through my job and housing searches and the certification process. I have consistently found warmth and friendliness in all of my interactions.
New Zealand has also returned to a semblance of normal due to their excellent COVID response. The short version goes like this: Leaders in New Zealand realized in early March 2020 that they did not have the capability to test and contact-trace to mitigate the spread. The country implemented a countrywide lockdown of their five million people led by science-driven 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 by June. To date, New Zealand has had roughly 2800 total cases and 26 deaths in a country of five million people. That is 0.05 percent of the population being infected compared with more than 10 percent of the U.S. population so far.
Excited for the Future
Then there's New Zealand's beauty. Have you seen “The Lord of the Rings,” “Avatar,” or “The Hobbit?” New Zealand boasts some of the most gorgeous landscapes in the world. The country is stunningly scenic with a multitude of beautiful hiking trails and camping spots. I will just have to be sure to avoid the Nazgûl.
I have been told that your health care is nearly completely covered if you live in New Zealand. Lawsuits against physicians are extremely rare unless there has been gross negligence. Granted, all health systems have limitations and problems, and I am sure a balance exists with the newfound benefits. I will write more on this as I gain experience, but for now I am simply going off of others' experiences.
New Zealand has no venomous ... anything. As far as my limited research shows, there is only one venomous 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 teatime and a hot meal are provided every shift; this is allegedly in my contract. I will assume this is utter fantasy until I see it firsthand.
I could go on. Granted, I am currently writing this article while in a 14-day isolation, which is still required for anyone entering the country, so my knowledge is limited. Time will tell, but I am excited for the future.
You can follow my adventures at http://brandtwriting.com, and I would love to chat if you have any questions about New Zealand. DM me on Twitter @brandtwriting.
Dr. Brandtis an emergency physician currently working in New Zealand (after 12 years in Michigan). Read his blog and other articles athttp://brandtwriting.com, follow him on Twitter@brandtwriting, and listen to his humorous ED podcast, “EpineFriends,” which can be found athttp://apple.co/3d9Nco2. Read his past EMN columns athttp://bit.ly/EMN-BrandtsRants.