A Psychiatrist's Journey to the UK - Dr Connie Chan
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 Connie Chan, a brilliant perinatal psychiatrist who relocated to the UK from Hong Kong in 2022. Having passed the MRCPsych and English language exams, Connie received full GMC registration with license to practise. She is now working in the NHS at Lancashire & South Cumbria NHS 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 Connie Chan?
I was born and trained in Hong Kong as a psychiatrist and have been working in perinatal mental health in the last 8 years, before I moved to practice in the UK in Spring 2022. I find working in perinatal mental health rewarding and it’s something I’m passionate about, so I was lucky to be able to find a job in the same sub-specialty in the UK.
What motivated you to move to the UK?
My main priority has always been my children’s education, so quite naturally, I had considered sending them to study in the UK, where the standard of schools (both private and state) is excellent and world-class. My kids are still young, and so rather than sending them to boarding schools, I preferred to relocate with them so that I would not miss out on seeing them grow up.
Tell us about your experience of completing MRCPsych as part of your training in Hong Kong...
I completed the Royal College of Psychiatrists examinations years ago, during a time when it was the norm in Hong Kong to do both our local professional exams and Royal College exams simultaneously. However, things have changed in my home city recently, and trainees can opt to complete the local membership examination only.
How did you manage to navigate and juggle the different aspects of registration whilst working full time?
I did not face any major setbacks in my registration, and it was quite smoothly done. My GMC registration only needed restoration, but when I made the decision to restore it, it was at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, so the restoration process was delayed by the suspension of all identity checks.
How did you find a perinatal psychiatry job within the NHS?
I made IMG Connect aware of my intention to look for jobs in perinatal psychiatry and there were several openings around the country. Ruaidhri, the co-founder, helped me to line up interviews and with the preparation, and voila, I got the job.
Tell us about a day in the life of a perinatal psychiatrist in the NHS...
I am currently working in the community team of a perinatal psychiatric unit. We have multidisciplinary team meetings to discuss cases and I am amazed by the different perspectives contributed by different disciplines in the team to make discussions really meaningful, tailor-made and human-centred. I make home visits, do clinics and attend meetings, and have supervision with my line manager and supervise my junior doctors as well.
Work-life balance is something that is important to a lot of people. My previous job was more about meeting deliverables for the service pledge, which emphasised efficiency and service output, and sometimes led to staff burnout. Working in this new environment, I feel that I do have a choice.
What opportunities have become available to you through your work?
The Trust I am working in has quite a comprehensive programme for IMGs, including personal development, understanding the values of the NHS, general IMG support and advice and peer groups for CESR. It is a good way to become familiar with the system. There are also a lot of managerial training and professional updates available.
How are you settling into life in the UK?
I am living in Greater Manchester with about a 45-minute commute into work each way. I prefer living a little further from work as driving by myself can be a good time for my own mindfulness to clear my thoughts. On weekdays, things are quite busy and it takes some planning to get my kids off to school and for pickups, as well as working and cooking in the evening. At the weekend, it is really a time that I can unwind and have quality time with my children. We have so many new things to learn and to share and new places to explore together.
What have you enjoyed most about living in Greater Manchester?
There is the airport in Manchester which brings a lot of vibrancy to the city and the areas around it. The atmosphere of traveling and the mood for holidays is infectious. It makes friends stopping by for a visit whenever they come to visit the UK much easier. In fact, there are quite a lot of Hong Kong communities in the area, so it made my initial move feel less isolated and the transition period easier.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in moving to the UK?
Living in a bigger place has been both a blessing and a curse. Manchester is the 2nd largest city in the UK, and living nearby allows me to have easy accessibility to many different things. However the vast area means to get from one place to another, I rely heavily on driving, and there is more to consider with regard to my children’s care and school runs. For me, driving is a challenge in winter as it gets dark earlier, and the rain makes the motorway quite daunting.
What have you missed about Hong Kong the most?
Definitely Hong Kong street food! There are just so many food delicacies there and they are a part of my cultural heritage that I am really proud of.
In hindsight, is there anything you would’ve done differently?
Honestly, I would do most things the same way. I would still choose to work with IMG Connect. But as a parent, I would try to plan my relocation to coincide with the beginning of the academic year for school admissions, so that it would be easier to find schools for the kids, as in-year transfers are more difficult.
What has been your experience working with IMG Connect?
My experience working with IMG Connect has been nothing short of amazing. I have been well taken care of on every level from job hunting, interview preparation, negotiations with human resources, to the choice of home, location, phone cards, school information, interesting places to visits, etc. My queries and my worries were always addressed and attended to, and that was massive help for someone like me with no prior connections in the UK.
Ruaidhri was really my guiding star in getting me through tricky situations, and it is a testament to how helpful and easily approachable everyone at IMG Connect is, from top to bottom.
Do you have any tips or advice for international doctors who want to move to the UK?
It is certainly a huge decision to make to relocate to the UK to work as a doctor. It is easier if one has a clear goal and works toward it step-by-step. Most importantly, I find it is the psychological preparedness to adapt to a new culture and work model that matters. It is never too late to make a new start.
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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