A psychiatrist's journey to the UK - Linda Granqvist
November 18, 2021
Are you an overseas psychiatrist looking to move to the UK? Here, you can hear first-hand the experiences of an international doctor who has been through the process, from completing GMC registration, to securing an NHS job and relocating to the UK.
IMG Stories is our series introducing you to international doctors who we have helped to relocate to the UK - sharing their personal journeys from working overseas to securing a new job as a doctor in the NHS.
Today we introduce you to Linda Granqvist, a fantastic child and adolescent psychiatrist who relocated to the UK from Sweden. Linda has been living and working in the UK since earlier this year when she received full specialist registration from the GMC. She is now working in the Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust in the north west of England – where she is making a huge contribution to the NHS and wider community.
Tell us a little about yourself – what should the IMG community know about Linda Granqvist?
I’m a mum of three who comes from Sweden and I work as a child and adolescent psychiatrist, which I have done for many years. I'm also a family therapist and a certified therapy dog handler. In my free time, I really enjoy hiking and diving – I'd say those are my main interests.
What motivated you to move to the UK?
So, for a couple of years, I’d been thinking about moving to an English-speaking country. Both because I want to improve my English skills and the same for my kids – I also wanted them to learn how to speak English fluently. Also of course, to experience another country, to see how they work within CAMHS, and to be able to develop professionally in a new place.
Your journey to the UK was an adventure! Why did you decide to drive rather than fly to the UK?
In the beginning, it was just practical reasons really. I wanted to have the car with me to be able to move around easily in the UK, also, I don't like to put Iris on aeroplanes. So I decided I’d rather drive. I also have a lot of friends in the countries I’d be passing through along the way, so I thought I might be able to stop and say hi. In these strange times, this was a different way to stay in touch. To be honest, I was a little bit nervous at first - it's a long journey. And initially, it was just going to be me and Iris in the car, fully packed with all of our things. But then a very sweet friend of mine offered to join me on the trip. This made the whole trip incredibly easier and so much more fun. I'd recommend traveling with a friend to anyone thinking of coming to the UK the same way.
Tell us about your journey to get here, any issues or exciting moments along the way?
The trip took us four days, which doesn’t sound very long, but then we were on the road for long periods of time, because we needed to cross the French and English borders within 72 hours of us departing Sweden because of the COVID situation. So, we had that tight schedule to work to, but it all worked out!
Alongside taking wonderful swims in the ocean and being on the beach when we were taking a break, getting to visit friends was great. I was a little curious about the COVID restrictions, to see how they would hold up in practice. There was no one checking us at any of the check points we passed at the borders between Denmark and Germany, Germany and Belgium then on to France. The only place where they actually checked all the certificates and vaccination status was on the ferry between France and England, so that was surprising to me.
What were the best places or things you saw on your journey?
The most exciting thing for me, just off the top of my head, is when we got to Dover. It was such a beautiful moment, having these white cliffs heading towards us on such a beautiful evening. I had a moment of strong emotion when I realised this would be my home for a long time and I was finally here.
You are the first psychiatrist we have worked with who has travelled with their care dog - exciting! We can’t wait to meet Iris, what was it like travelling here with her?
Iris is so relaxed. She's very used to me taking her everywhere, to all sorts of places, so she was quite happy after around 12 hours of travelling, when she realised she could just chill out. So she's no problem at all. Even now, I think she sort of misses the car!
Was it difficult to make arrangements to come to the UK with a dog?
You have to have your shots up to date and have the all the tablets that you need. But not really, it's not really been much of a fuss and was quite easy. Also, we'd travelled abroad before, so she had a passport and things like that.
What role does Iris play in your daily practice in the NHS?
Iris is a trained Care and Therapy Dog and we have worked side by side for 4 years now.
There were no protocols in place for a care dog at first, so the situation needed some working out, but now that’s been sorted, we’re up and running and I'm working with her clinically every day. She helps me with patients so they feel emotionally supported. She can do most tricks in the book and loves children and adults and is so proud to be helping me with these sometimes very vulnerable children.
How did you manage to navigate and juggle the different aspects of registration whilst working full time in Sweden?
Without all the support from Ruaidhri, I don’t think I would have, to be honest - all the credit goes to him. There was so much paperwork and so much to consider in doing things in the right order that it would have taken me forever. But Ruaidhri has been so supportive, holding my hand all the way, always letting me know what the next step was and what I would have to do, helping me wherever he could. He's just been amazing.
Do you have any advice for international doctors hoping to find jobs in the UK?
Find IMG Connect. Seriously, it made all the difference for me. If I’d had less support, I don't think I would have gone through with the move.
From your experience so far, tell us about a day in the life of a consultant CAMHS psychiatrist in the NHS…
I'm a locum consultant, so I work together with one other senior doctor and then another part-time consultant, as well as other doctors who are training and more junior. I take part in assessments and support the team in medical issues spend time on-call.
It's a big difference from what I’ve experienced before. I've worked both privately and in the NHS in Sweden, and I'd say it's a big difference in terms of the psychiatry role, and also how we support the team. It’s understaffed in some areas, and the socio-economic factors within the area can make things more difficult. I think I was maybe a little bit naïve coming into this role. But everybody is so supportive and really welcoming.
How are you settling into life in the North West of England?
So far, we’re enjoying it very much. It's almost like a tropical environment for us compared to Sweden. The people are extremely friendly and open, and not to say the least, they're very dog oriented. Iris really gets to socialise, so the dog life here is much easier. And then the nature, I mean, it's beautiful. Preston doesn’t have the most wonderful nature, but it's so close to the Lake District and the sea, so we're taking advantage of that as well.
What’s next for you now that you’re working in the UK?
My field of interest is in using dogs as part of the work within Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. So I’d love to do more research on this, to find out who benefits the most from having a therapy dog - I think that will be my next step. I always give everyone feedback forms to comment on how they found the appointment with a therapy dog present. I've previously done a small project in Sweden related to this, but I would like to expand on that.
Have you had any culture shocks living in the UK so far?
Probably the dog culture being so friendly. It's I think a positive culture shock. I'm really happy with how things are going.
We’re vegetarians, me and my three daughters, and we’re finding that British vegetables are so much tastier than in Sweden! We talk about it at dinner all the time, wondering how they can taste so good. I'm not too keen on fish and chips and some other typical British dishes, they’re not my cup of tea, but there’s so much choice here as well.
What have you missed about Sweden the most?
I guess there's the emotional part of it - leaving your closest friends, and some family. I think that's the hardest part and what I've missed most.
Do you have any advice for international doctors who want to move to the UK?
It’s a big step, relocating with your family, so it’s good to have practical and emotional support around you. But don't be afraid to try new things. Embrace everything, be flexible and just go for it. You will have an experience you will never forget.
Moving to live and work in the UK is a big decision to make but can be massively rewarding in many ways. International doctors have the chance to find a new home and the NHS presents an incredible opportunity to secure rewarding jobs, progress within their field and explore adjacent opportunities such as CESR (for non-EEA doctors), writing publications and research. Whatever route an overseas doctor may take on their journey to the UK, IMG Connect is here to support them through every step and welcome them to the IMG Connect family.