Lasting impression on locum GP

Date published
20 Jun 2016

The ruggedness of the Southern Alps, the beauty of the beaches in Northland and the Coromandel, the awe-inspiring volcanic activity of White Island and a simpler medical system are just some of the memories American GP Thomas Holmes will take with him when he leaves New Zealand. Dr Holmes came to New Zealand through NZLocums recruitment services.

We asked him for his thoughts about the differences between working in New Zealand and the US, what he most enjoyed about his time here, and the places he visited. 
What state did you come from?  
New York State

How long did you stay in NZ?  
A total of about a year and a half in two different locations.  

Did anybody else come with you to NZ?
My wife, Grace. 

Where did you work in NZ?    
The rural farming community of Putaruru in the South Waikato District and in Queenstown.

What was it like working in NZ compared to your home country?
I found work in NZ to be very pleasant and much less stressful than working in the US, largely because the healthcare system is much simpler, more focused on the actual health care delivered, and less focused on meeting the extremely complicated demands of the larger, more complex healthcare system with many different insurers found in the US.
What are your general impressions of the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders?
Generally, New Zealanders are much more physically active and seem to depend on their physicians much less than in the US. Overall, I believe that most Kiwis are on far fewer medications, are more resistant to starting medications, rarely ask for a narcotic medication, take more ownership of their own personal healthcare, and are much less dependent on their physicians and the medical offices as their "medical home".  For instance, when starting a new medication for hypertension in the US, I routinely ask patients to return for a follow-up visit in two to three months, which they usually will do. In NZ people seem much more reluctant to return within just a few months.  
I believe that Americans get more medical care than people in NZ, but the outcome is pretty much equal.  This raises the obvious question: "How much value and expense does that additional care add?"
In Queenstown I was especially struck by the ease with which Kiwis and other people from all over the world move in and out of that location.  Many people have fascinating stories to tell, and it's usually appropriate to have those background conversations.  I understand that about a quarter of New Zealand’s population is foreign-born, and I suspect that in Queenstown that may be closer to a half of the population.  I would doubt that there are many other stable locations in the world that can make that claim.
What places did you visit in NZ?
We were extremely fortunate to be able to visit most parts of NZ from Cape Reinga and the East Cape to Fiordland, the Catlins, and Stewart Island.  We even made it to Molesworth Station.  
What was your favourite place?
I would be very hard pressed to pick a favourite place, but among the nominees are the rugged and dramatic mountains of the Southern Alps, and the amazing beauty of the smaller beaches of the Coromandel and Northland.  I found the visit to Cape Reinga to be the most meaningful spiritual experience that we had in New Zealand, and one really great, but understated location is Castlepoint, east of Masterton with its dramatic reef, light house, and wonderful little cove. Several of the more fascinating, little-known and quirky, one-of-a-kind, gems include the migration of young seal pups up to the Ohau Waterfall just north of Kaikoura in April; the ability to rub your hand over a table made of 40,000 year-old Kauri wood in Northland; and walk through the belching belly of an active volcano on White Island.  Where else in the world can you do those things?

What aspect of life did you most enjoy about NZ, and how was it different for your usual life?
The best part of living in NZ is the realisation the each new day can bring a new and exciting adventure, and that the next, even-more-beautiful scene lies just around the next corner.  

What souvenir from NZ are you taking home for yourself?
Certainly the most important souvenirs are the wonderful memories and stories, but close behind is a trove of beautiful pictures, as well as some colourful stones and seashells.

What advice would you give to anybody coming to live and work in NZ?
Kiwis love their spectacular country and want to share it.  Take advantage of those opportunities.

Tom and Grace at White-Island

Grace and Tom, White Island

Tom and Garce at Castlepoint



Able Tasman Track

Abel Tasman Track

Routeburn Track

Routeburn Track

view over lake- Front of my room in Queenstown

Front of my room in Queenstown

Tom commuting to work along Lake Wakatipu

Commuting to work along Lake Wakatipu