As the NHS celebrated its 70th anniversary earlier this year, we’ve spoken to a Russian family who were attracted to move to the UK to work for its health service.
Dr Vadim Chernykh, is a clinical fellow in trauma and orthopaedics with eight years of clinical experience in neurosurgery in both Russia and the UK.
His wife, Dr Nina Chernykh is a clinical development fellow in acute medicine with three years’ experience of practising medicine in Russia.
They moved here from Russia, along with their daughter aged nearly two, and Nina’s sister, Dr Sofia Slanova, who is a clinical development fellow in acute medicine with three years’ experience of practising medicine in Russia.
They all work for the Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust at King’s Mill Hospital in Nottinghamshire.
Vadim tells us of his experience and the process he went through to work in the UK and relocate his family.
If you’re thinking of moving to the UK to practice medicine, I can’t recommend it enough. My wife Nina and I are from Russia but moved to the UK a year ago, along with our young daughter and Nina’s sister, Sofia, who is also a doctor. It has been a fantastic opportunity but, like any move abroad, there have been challenges. I hope that sharing our experiences will give other doctors an insight into what to expect.
Loving UK life – why we decided to move
Several years before we met, Nina studied medicine in Russia. As part of her course, she completed a four week elective placement at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. Sofia had also completed a clinical attachment at St Thomas’ Hospital. Both were absolutely mesmerised by British culture and fell in love with the NHS. Together, they dreamed of practising in the UK. In addition, a good friend of mine, Niha, was already employed in the NHS as a paediatrician. Their combined enthusiasm about their experiences persuaded me that I wanted to work there too.
Nina and I agreed that moving to the UK would not only help us become better professionals because we’d be working as part of one of the best healthcare systems in the world, but it would also improve our quality of life and create a better future for our daughter. We agreed that I would look for work first and then, when settled, Nina would also find a job at a hospital. Sofia decided to join us.
Our initial worries
Initially, I had a number of concerns about moving to the UK and starting a new career in a country with a totally different way of life.
The most significant was learning English well enough to be able to work for the NHS. Russian is our native language so it took us quite a while to become fluent enough to pass the International English Language Testing System exam, which is one of the routes to meet the General Medical Council’s (GMC) language requirements for doctors wanting to practise in the UK. Even though you may have to take some tests a few times, it is important to never give up.
My wife and I were also unsure about exactly where we wanted to work and how to go about getting an offer of a job. It was quite difficult to find a hospital offering a one year contract as a Trust Grade Doctor. Luckily, our friend Niha had used a recruitment consultancy (Remedium Partners) which specialises in placing overseas doctors on permanent contracts in the NHS and she recommended them to me and my wife. They found jobs for us and also worked with us to make our move to the UK as smooth as possible. Initially, we started at Nottingham University Hospital and we have since moved to King’s Mill Hospital, which is also in Nottinghamshire.
How we got GMC registration
To get GMC registration, we took The Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board route. We studied practice questions and prepared together for the exams which we sat in 2015. The tests were as we expected and we were delighted to pass.
The process took me a year, but Nina and Sofia had to spend two years. This is because they initially only obtained provisional GMC registration as they were yet to complete their second year of internship and had to work in Russia to do so. They were granted full GMC registration in January 2018.
Recently, a GMC Regional Liaison Adviser came to the hospital to welcome us and explain the GMC’s function and what is expected of us as practising doctors, which we found very helpful.
What we love about working in the UK and the NHS
I love being in the UK as I get to know people from different countries and learn about their cultures and beliefs. I’m really proud to work for the NHS – I think the system is fantastic and effective. I also love the way that we help people from a range of backgrounds and that patients are not charged to receive this treatment.
We are all learning so much on a daily basis that we have really developed professionally and are better doctors as a result. Sofia tells people that she has become the best version of herself due to all of the lectures, classes and training days which are continually pushing her. She feels that she is now living her dream life.
Everyone that we have worked with in the NHS – including nursing staff and junior and senior doctors – has been incredibly supportive. I have found that they are always trying to help me and explain what I don’t yet know or understand. Even when they are extremely busy, they make time for me. The patients that we work with have also been very friendly, so we’ve all had really positive experiences.
Work in Russia has many similarities to working in the UK. Doctors in both countries work very long hours and see many patients each day. The paid and free medical systems are very similar to the UK and that was also appealing to us when we were considering relocating. However, the medical equipment available in the NHS is fantastic and certainly makes working as a doctor easier. Unfortunately hospitals in Russia are not very well funded so technology is not as advanced, however it does have its advantages as you become less reliant on equipment and trust clinical skills and methods more.
In Russia patients who attend at hospital generally have very advanced conditions, which can be very complex. Patients tend to delay seeking medical advice and subsequently end up being very poorly by the time they see a doctor. However, all three of us have noticed that in the UK some people come to hospitals with ailments that can be easily treated such as headaches and non-cardiac chest pains. It is very rare to see such simple concerns in hospitals in Russia. The mixture of patients in both countries is a benefit to us junior doctors as we have experience of being exposed to a variety of different conditions.
We all enjoy the challenge of working in the UK and have seen patients with malaria and sickle cell disease, which we had never encountered in Russia before. In England, we rarely come across patients with tick-borne encephalitis, a viral infectious disease involving the central nervous system. But in Russia in the region we worked in, close to Siberia, it is very common.
Our plan to stay
Although we faced some initial obstacles, none of us regret going through so much to get here and we have no plans to leave – we want to settle here. Working in UK has provided our family with the freedom and opportunities that we had dreamed of and, in return, we want to become a true and valuable part of the NHS.
We, at the GMC, encourage doctors new to working in the UK to attend one of our free Welcome to UK Practice sessions. The half day workshops, which take place throughout the UK, focus on ethical scenarios doctors commonly face.
The workshops are a great opportunity for you to meet other doctors, ask questions and learn from the real-life experiences of others who have moved to the UK.
The sessions take place in locations throughout the UK. You can book a place online.