Nova Scotia·The Search

The Canadian Dream: Recruiters sell Nova Scotia to U.K. doctors

With Nova Scotia clamouring for new doctors, the BMJ Career Fair in London, England, is a significant opportunity to lure doctors across the ocean. CBC News followed the recruiting team to see their efforts first-hand.

Nova Scotia booth draws significant interest at London physician job fair

Several countries are now facing physician shortages, putting the pressure on recruiters from around the world to make an impression on 1,700 doctors attending the BMJ Careers Fair. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

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.

Dr. Simon Bonnington (right) tells Dr. Toyin Odunuga why she should make the move to Nova Scotia from England during a recruitment fair in London. (Pascal Leblond/CBC)

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.

The BMJ Careers Fair offers physicians job opportunities around the world. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

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.

Nova Scotia recruiter Katie Meisner (left) and Dr. Maria Alexiadis (middle) tell stories about life in Canada to a doctor thinking about moving across the ocean. (Pascal Leblond/CBC)

"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."

The Nova Scotia flag can be seen hanging from the booth in the middle of the job fair, which included more than 80 exhibitors from around the world. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

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."

Dr. Kate Clorley and her husband, David, see Nova Scotia as a good place to raise their daughter. They hope to visit the province soon to decide if they want to live in a rural or urban area. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

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.

Kelli Lovett (left) of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia explains the credentials needed to work in the province to an interested delegate at the BMJ Careers Fair. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

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.

Alan Davidson is finishing his training as an emergency room physician in Glasgow, Scotland. Davidson came to the BMJ Careers Fair specifically to learn more about his options about working in Canada. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

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."

About the Author

Carolyn Ray

Videojournalist

Carolyn Ray is a videojournalist who has reported out of three provinces and two territories, and is now based in Halifax. You can reach her at Carolyn.Ray@cbc.ca