The Canadian Dream: Recruiters sell Nova Scotia to U.K. doctors
Nova Scotia booth draws significant interest at London physician job fair
In a large hall in London's busy Islington borough, physician recruiters from around the world set up creative displays in an attempt to stand out.
Right smack dab in the middle of the room, a large Nova Scotia flag hangs proudly.
Dr. Toyin Odunuga, a general practitioner in England, is having an enthusiastic conversation with Dr. Simon Bonnington, a member of Nova Scotia's recruiting team.
"As you know in any career, there's work-life balance. I am currently more in work-work balance," explains Odunuga.
The pressures of her current job have left her yearning for adventure and a fresh start. The lure of Nova Scotia is now so strong, she's considering picking up and leaving the country she's called home nearly her whole life.
"I need to speak to family," she says. "I need to sit down and seriously think about it."
Odunuga is one of an estimated 1,700 physicians and medical students who've descended on the BMJ Careers Fair, looking for their next career move.
CBC News attended the event this past weekend as part of its ongoing series, The Search, which takes an in-depth look at Nova Scotia's doctor shortage.
With the province clamouring for new doctors, the career fair is seen as a significant opportunity to lure doctors across the ocean. But in order to do so, the six-member recruitment team has to stand out against more than 80 exhibits.
They spend the entire weekend on their feet.
"We've had interest from family docs, we've had interest from various specialties. I'm quite encouraged by this," says Dr. Maria Alexiadis, a Halifax-based physician who is now the head of family practice in the Nova Scotia Health Authority's central zone.
It's her first time representing the province at a recruiting fair.
"You need physicians to recruit physicians," she says of her role on the team. "I think Canada is a place that people want to go to — especially Nova Scotia when we tell them that it's only six hours from home, if home is London."
Bonnington, perhaps the province's biggest imported cheerleader, spends the weekend sharing his experience of moving to Annapolis Royal from England eight years ago.
He hands out coasters and buttons that he's made advertising his positive experience.
"We are now taking steps in the right direction," Bonnington says of the province's recruitment effort. "To be actively going to recruitment events like this ... it's a great opportunity."
The fair is a big investment for Nova Scotia. Participation alone cost just shy of $20,000, not to mention the cost of sending two physicians, two recruiters and representatives from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia and the provincial immigration office.
The hope is that investment will pay dividends.
Last year, the province's attendance led to the recruitment of 14 physicians, says Bonnington.
This year, the team has come armed with a new advantage: in February, the province announced a new immigration system specifically for qualified physicians. It means their immigration paperwork can be processed in days, rather than months or years.
For Dr. Kate Clorley, that's a big bonus.
Clorley and her husband dream of raising their young daughter in a community along Nova Scotia's coastline. They've visited Canada on several occasions and find the slower pace appealing.
"I'm looking forward to coming on a site visit once I've got my eligibility sorted, to see some of the communities and have a think about whether we want to go rural or maybe suburban," she says.
Through the weekend, the six Nova Scotian representatives are swamped with interest. They have lengthy conversations with nearly 180 people who registered their information for follow-ups. Of that total, 157 are physicians while another 18 are students or residents, including Alan Davidson.
Davidson is finishing his training in emergency medicine in Glasgow, Scotland. He made the trek to London specifically to learn more about working in Canada. The Nova Scotia booth caught his eye.
"I think a lot of people are realizing there's a lot more to life than work," he says.
"In terms of Nova Scotia themselves, they seem to sell themselves as a part of the country that is friendly and accessible."