A Psychiatrist's Journey to the UK - Dr Brittany Meyer
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 Brittany Meyer, a brilliant general adult psychiatrist who relocated to the UK from the US. Having completed the USMLE during her training, Brittany was able to gain full GMC registration with license to practise. She is now working in the NHS at West London Mental Health Foundation Trust, where she is making a fantastic impact on the service and wider community.
Tell us about yourself – what should the IMG community know about Brittany Meyer?
I am a US-trained psychiatrist now working as a specialty doctor in the NHS. I trained in psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, and following training, I worked at a consultant level in an intensive outpatient treatment centre specialising in OCD and anxiety.
My academic interests include catatonia, psychosis, OCD, and teaching, and I have a special love for opportunities that allow blending the arts and humanism with medicine.
What motivated you to move to the UK?
I moved to the UK to be with my fiancé, who is a born and bred Londoner. The pandemic was a major motivator to be in the same country finally! Luckily, I have dual US-UK citizenship, so this made the move over much simpler.
How did you manage to navigate and juggle the different aspects of registration whilst working full time?
During the registration process, at which point I had moved to the UK, I worked part-time for a tele-psychiatry service located in the USA, allowing me to treat patients from abroad. This was invaluable in terms of flexibility, and it prevented my clinical skills from becoming too rusty while I waited for my licensing to be approved.
My main struggle, if anything, was having so much unfamiliar unstructured time on my hands. I strongly recommend setting out a weekly schedule for yourself if you are in a similar situation, filled with other means of staying productive and gaining a sense of accomplishment you might otherwise get from your job. It’s also important to maximize such rare time to enjoy nourishing hobbies and interests - for example I learned to watercolour and spent many mornings at the V&A museum - and in hindsight wish I had been more proactive in seeking such activities out.
How did you find a general adult psychiatry job within the NHS?
I was hoping to find an outpatient mental health team position and Ruaidhri fully facilitated the job search. When I began the registration process, I felt quite disoriented, and it was difficult to find someone who had an incentive to talk me through my options and the steps to get there.
It was only when I found IMG Connect and Ruaidhri that I felt someone was in my corner, illuminating an otherwise confusing journey and assisting with each step along the way. It was no different for the job search, when Ruaidhri deftly handled the search and communication with NHS trusts to find a position for me. I am deeply indebted to Ruaidhri for not only the logistical work he put in on my behalf, but also the moral support along the way.
Tell us about a day in the life of a general adult psychiatrist in the NHS...
Learning an entirely new system has been quite an adjustment. In addition, I am working in a model that is new to the NHS, so the system is foreign in ways I didn’t expect, for example not having the ability to order blood work or imaging, or to even prescribe anything beyond very short-term medications. The team I work with has been incredibly welcoming and have helped orient me to resources like the BNF and Maudsley Prescribing Guidelines to orient me to standard practice.
Working in the NHS can be quite chaotic, and this is an especially challenging time in terms of staffing and funding within the system, but the difference I can make in my patients’ lives is striking.
What opportunities have become available to you through your work?
I am still in the infancy of my NHS career, but I am hoping to pursue teaching opportunities, particularly around the diagnosis and management of catatonia. I have found everyone to be very supportive and willing to connect me to those who can further this.
How are you settling into life in the UK?
London is a magical space. Having access to some of the best museums, opera, theatre, restaurants and architecture in the world is a luxury. I have also loved the flexibility of being so close to other amazing places in the UK and Europe, which has allowed me to spend time in France, Spain, Italy, Wales, Northern Ireland, and more. Being able to spend a weekend in another country the way we would visit another state in the US is incredible!
I hope to eventually have a role that blends more teaching and support of trainees and medical students with clinical care. I am very excited to get married in 2023 and hopefully become a dog parent as well!
You’re of course a British citizen, is living in London what you had expected?
Yes and no! Though a British citizen, I had only lived in Scotland as a small child and spent holidays with my family in Northern Ireland growing up. So the big city - especially a walkable city - was a new experience for me! I’ve really enjoyed not owning a car and using public transport, and I’ll admit I’m still adapting to the very small stores with fewer than the usual 500 options of cereal that the US touts.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in moving to the UK?
Leaving family and friends, especially during the pandemic, was even more difficult than I expected. Not being able to have anyone visit in the first year of being in the UK was challenging. I think it is important to normalise that moving to a new place - even an incredibly exciting and vibrant place like London - can feel lonely at times, and that it is expected to have a period of transition that might not feel comfortable. However, London is feeling increasingly like home, and I have made wonderful friends since arriving.
What have you missed most about the US?
Target! Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing (for the very desperate like me, available for ten pounds at Partridge’s)! Tacos! Smiling and saying hello to strangers on the street!
Is there anything you wish you had known before you began your journey to the UK?
I wish I had found IMG Connect while living in the US so I could have prepared and submitted my application while living in the US before moving; this would have cut down on a lot of limbo time after I moved.
I also wish I had understood the CESR process for specialist registration while still in the US, as that would have allowed me to gather and anonymise patient documentation from my job there to support my CESR application; unfortunately I have now lost the right to access that documentation due to patient information protection laws. If you are considering applying for specialist registration and are still in your pre-NHS job, collect all the supporting documentation you can!
What has been your experience working with IMG Connect?
IMG Connect has been incredibly key in helping me to get licensed and find a position working as a doctor in the UK. Ruaidhri has been helpful in a multitude of ways: explaining a foreign system and where I might fit in, doing the groundwork of distributing my CV and liaising with HR departments to explore job possibilities, setting up interviews, guiding my licensing application, and supporting my appeal including with a written letter of support. I truly would not have been able to navigate this on my own - and had tried unsuccessfully before I found IMG Connect.
Do you have any tips or advice for international doctors who want to move to the UK?
I tried to seek information from a lot of different sources: forums, family friends who were practicing physicians in the UK, online blogs, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the GMC. Ultimately the most helpful resource by far was IMG Connect: both the one-on-one tailored advice, as well as their handouts that break down the ins and outs of the UK system and guide you through exactly what documents you need to collect in what order, etc., to achieve licensing. It’s such a niche process that I found the only really helpful resource to be a service that is devoted to my precise needs as an internationally-trained doctor transitioning to the UK.
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 for IMGs to secure rewarding jobs, progress within their fields and explore adjacent opportunities such as CESR, writing publications, teaching opportunities 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 Family.
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