In the Spotlight: An interview with a Locum Kiwi Speech & Language Therapist working in the U.K.

26 July  •  Working Abroad
In the Spotlight: An interview with a Locum Kiwi Speech & Language Therapist working in the U.K.

One of the greatest advantages of being a locum speech and language therapist is that you can successfully do the job in any English-speaking country, whether that be New Zealand, Canada, the U.K or parts of Europe. In this interview with a kiwi speech and language therapist, we understand how they’ve adapted to life in the U.K, the role’s similarities and differences when compared to work back in New Zealand, as well as how they have coped during the Covid-19 pandemic.

How have you enjoyed your time so far here?

I have enjoyed my time over here so far. I have had a lot of opportunities for development despite being a locum. I have enjoyed seeing how different therapists work, especially seeing as I only worked in one team prior to this. 

What are the differences between here and New Zealand workwise?

So far, the main difference in Speech & Language practice is the use of cough reflex testing in the assessment. Also, the availability of instrumental ax. Saying that, I happened to work in a hospital in New Zealand that utilised cough testing. It also happened to be the first hospital in New Zealand that implemented FEES (Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing). I am aware that different trusts have different policies re: cough test or availability of instrumental ax.  I also find the UK quite hierarchical in terms of Band 5, Band 6 and Band 7. We will generally start with new grad positions and after a few years you may apply for a senior position. There is also a more complex competency for FEES - in NZ I would assist with FEES daily with a fairly newly trained therapist however here I can only assist with a L3 clinician. Also, there are lots of different community services that a patient can come under.

How have you got on during Covid? How has your day to day job changed?

I have worked full time through Covid. Shift patterns changed to 4x long days (8am-6pm) and 3x days off - including working a day on the weekend. Shifts have now changed to 8.40am-4.30pm Monday to Friday and you currently have to work 1x weekend a month. It was very busy and stressful at times however I had many good opportunities for learning. I had never worked on ICU but I have spent quite a bit of time up there now, I was able to start my trache competencies due to upskilling needed through Covid. It was also interesting managing these patients without the use of instrumental ax. Communication ax has been made very hard with the use of PPE - and also the fact interpreters are not yet allowed to do face to face (a lot of our patients do not speak English!)

What do you like the most about working in the U.K.?

I enjoy that there are a lot of specialised areas and teams to explore. London is big and there are many different services available. Hospitals in New Zealand do have some specialist areas but acute hospitals do tend to be stroke or general medical/surgical (maybe 1 cardiology, 1 respiratory patient at a time for example). 

Have you any advice for Speech Therapists back home about working here?

The UK love Kiwis! I think it is a good opportunity to explore different areas of Speech and Language Therapy and to learn from therapists from many different backgrounds. 

Intrigued about locum speech and language jobs abroad? Take a look at the latest job opportunities by clicking here.

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