Shirley Bell, Charge Nurse Manager

Shirley Bell
Charge Nurse Manager, Children’s Unit and Paediatric Assessment Unit,
Dunedin Hospital, Otago District Health Board
Country of Origin: United Kingdom-Scotland
Moved to New Zealand in 1997.

I was the charge nurse of a neonatal unit based in Dundee, Scotland - living with my husband and two children (then aged 6 and 2 years), when we got “itchy feet” to move away. There were loads of social issues going on where we were living and I was also seeing this in the types of syndromes in babies coming through the neonatal unit. I was concerned about my own kids growing up there.

A seminar on NZ was being held in Manchester and I went along with a friend. We were both offered jobs at the seminar, but decided to do some further research first. Having spoken to a Kiwi working in our hospital, I wrote to all of the hospitals in the main cities in New Zealand seeking a job. Dunedin had the best job for me at the time and they replied quickly as well. My husband was a bit worried about job prospects for himself (he was working in a mill at the time), but we agreed to accept the job and to look at residency after a year of living here. After that first year, we knew we wanted to stay for good.

When I first arrived, I took on an educator position with the Dunedin Hospital Neonatal Unit. There were always people available to talk to if I wanted to understand any differences from the UK hospitals I had worked in or to get further information.

I love working here at this DHB – I’ve been able to change roles as opportunities have come up and my career has benefited. I like the size of the hospital – there’s a family feel here amongst the children’s health services, with a good stable workforce. Back home, you never had time to get to know people. Here you find yourself able to have a personal-level conversation in the corridor with a colleague.

My family's lifestyle has definitely improved for the better.

I love that we can walk on uncrowded beaches with the dogs and that we can pick up the caravan and go on a holiday somewhere without huge queues of traffic.

We live 10 minutes from the beach — we can just step out of our house and walk to the beach with our two dogs. Our kids have been brought up by the beach — surfing, boogie boarding, sailing are all a part of their lives.
Our daughter has also had the opportunity to play for Otago in representative-level sports teams — something more achievable in a smaller sized city like Dunedin.

We enjoyed camping back in the UK, but we’ve been to some beautiful places here — and you can see so many places here, without spending lots of money. We have a caravan in Waihola — we drive there in weekends, pick it up and take it places. Our daughter will bring a friend and they’ll kayak on the lake whilst we relax.

Traffic’s a breeze. It takes my husband 8-10 minutes to get to work, and it’s just a 5 minute drive to the hospital for me. It used to take me at least 40 minutes to go get to work when we were in the UK. After school the kids are playing football, netball and badminton with everything in easy reach — for example the indoor sports centre is just 2 minutes from where live.

As lovers of the arts, we regularly go to the local professional Fortune Theatre and the Town Hall for acts. There’s a really good Dunedin music scene with locally grown bands and a good arts scene too.

There’s not such a recognisable class structure here. You can go with others for an after work drink and it doesn’t matter if you’re the consultant or the’s about who you are – not what you do over here.

Many UK nurses have come here and there’s always a willingness of staff to help you make connections with other UK people if desired to support you. The people here have been so friendly from the minute we came here and they continue to be.

►Housing - make sure you ask lots of questions to make sure you know what you are getting into with regards to insulation, heating, winter sun (there's no central heating here!)

►Those moving with very young children will find that "Plunket" offers a very good social network support for parents

►The local supermarket has a section of international foods including many popular UK items

►It's after the 1st month of moving here that it can be important to catch up with others who have come from overseas, as they know what you are feeling and where you are at

►Family is the biggest issue when moving to the other side of the world – but with internet and web cameras, you can see your family and talk to them over the computer

►There’s a large population of UK folk here – you’re not the first to do it. People are very helpful!


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