Dr Joy McLean, GP – Banff, Alberta

After 25 years as a GP in the UK, Dr. Joy McLean now lives in a wonderful home in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada. She loves watching the wildlife walk past her back garden, hiking and kayaking in the summer and skiing and boarding in the winter.

Still working as a GP in a lovely clinic with two other doctors in Banff and surrounded by the mountains, Joy is thoroughly enjoying her professional and family life.  At home, her family are absolutely loving the Alberta lifestyle too: “My husband and two teenagers all enjoy the wonderful outdoor opportunities, the standard of living and the general quality of life. Overall, things are much cheaper here and are of better quality”.

“If you leave your front door open, you don’t worry about being robbed, the roads are not busy and you can ride a bike safely! Children are respected here; they are not repressed or put down. It is important to us that our children have a safe place to live and they have blossomed in confidence within a much more positive educational system than the UK. My daughter thinks it’s great to have mountain biking as one of her lesson choices!”

Clearly, the lifestyle opportunities for her children played an important part in Joy’s decision to re-locate to Alberta. She adds: “The education system progresses children in many ways. They are encouraged to talk and give opinions and they follow two streams in high school – one academic, one more practical. The local school has two cars for the boys to practice mechanics and students run the canteen thus learning business as well as cooking skills. On leaving high school, there is even a cap and gown ceremony and a graduation ball.”

During his education in Alberta, Joy’s 17 year old son developed enough confidence to train as a tennis pro in the U.S. “ He would never have been given that confidence in the UK – all aspects of the child are encouraged here, not just academic” adds Joy, who hopes her own parents will join her as they also love Alberta.

In the spirit of positivity that exists in Alberta, Joy and her husband opened a bookshop in Banff which has made the whole family even more part of the community, something which Joy says “has been lost in all but the small UK villages”.

Joy enjoys more autonomy as a doctor than she did in the UK: “We can order CT scans, bone scans and MRIs without specialist input”.

So, how has Joy’s professional life as a doctor worked out? Apparently, the advantages in Alberta, compared with her UK past, are numerous. “I can choose to do as many hours as I wish, being paid per consultation” says Joy. “I do a lot more hands on work here. I’m once again removing stitches and giving injections and I love being able to do antenatal, postnatal and baby care again.” Most patients call her “Joy” and she welcomes this informality. “People are helpful and pleasant and, although we’ve been really busy, our stress levels are much lower than they were in the UK”.

Banff, where Joy’s clinic is located, is a small tourist town and ski resort with a mixed population of transient youngsters and stable local people. It has a small hospital which is just one hour away from large medical facilities. “As you can imagine, we see a lot of ski injuries and are much more involved in all aspects of care. As we are a distance from the large hospitals, I do a lot of consults with specialists over the phone”.

Joy enjoys more autonomy as a doctor than she did in the UK: “We can order CT scans, bone scans and MRIs without specialist input”. She also reveals that waiting times are better than in the UK with, for example, family doctors able to arrange a non-urgent ultrasound in two weeks and urgent CTs the same day.

 Patience in working steadily through the entry administration processes, including the Canadian certifications and medical examinations is “worth the wait” says Joy. “The healthcare system is great. I love it here and so do other British doctors I know – none of us would think of going back”.

But what is the downside?  Apart from the wait while all necessary procedures are carefully followed - Joy advises going over, initially, on a work permit - the only downside is, apparently, the possibility of “meeting a bear on a forest walk!!” 

Here are some helpful tips from Dr. Joy McLean:

  •  “I contacted Sam Sussman at Physicians Canada and he sent out my CV and I had numerous responses!!
  •  Come over, travel around and decide where you want to be – drop into a few clinics and leave your CV. I did that – and one doctor I visited passed my CV to the clinic I am now working in.
  • Get the job offer, once you have the job offer, the clinic will have to apply for a HRDC labour market opinion and once this is granted you can get a work permit very quickly via London. Sit the MCCEE over here, come over on the work permit and then apply for Landed Immigration once here if you want to stay.”