New Zealand Skills Shortage | Psychiatrists Wanted

Psychiatrists wanted for jobs in New Zealand due to severe shortages

Fraser Clarke

Practice Psychiatry in New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the best countries in the world for psychiatrists. A top expatriate destination with a fabulous climate and lifestyle, stunning natural beauty, stable government and a strong economy, New Zealand offers psychiatrists unique opportunities to develop an interesting career combined with a wonderful lifestyle.

If you are interested in what New Zealand has to offer you as a specialist psychiatrist, or as a  junior doctor seeking  postgraduate psychiatry training and an internationally recognised qualification, read this article and learn how you can access these opportunities.


Key Facts: Psychiatry in New Zealand - Mental Health and Addiction Services 

Here are some important facts about psychiatry in New Zealand:
  • New Zealand has just 4.3 psychiatrists per 100,000 population, half the ratio recommended by the World Health Organization. 
  • Psychiatry has the second highest percentage of international medical graduates (IMGs) among all specialty areas. 
  • IMGs make up 59 percent of the psychiatry workforce (based on registration data).
  • Psychiatrists are listed on New Zealand's Long Term Skills Shortage List 2019 
  • Psychiatrists feature in New Zealand's Regional Skills Shortage List 2019
  • The mental health and addiction services have been modernised and restructured and are continuously upgraded.
  • Psychiatry education and clinical research opportunities are excellent 
  • Many specialist and subpsecialist psychiatrist jobs available throughout the country
  • Opportunities for leadership skills and roles and clinical directorship positions 
  • Abundant opportunities for junior psychiatrists in training 
  • Fellowship of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (FRANZCP) is an internationally respected qualification accepted by many medical licensing bodies globally including Canada, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and more.


Psychiatrist Skills Shortage

New Zealand has prioritised the recruitment and immigration of psychiatrists which feature as a shortage skill on both long term and regional skills shortages lists of 2019. 

The New Zealand government recognises psychiatrists as crucial to the implementation of the Mental Health and Addiction Workforce Action Plan 2017- 2021 (currently being updated) and on going projects for psychiatry service quality improvement.

Mental Health and Addiction Services have been stretched by the increasing demands placed upon them by  demographic changes; a fast growing population fuelled by an immigration boom and an aging population. This has been exacerbated by the covid19 pandemic, which left New Zealand relatively unscathed but placed social restrictions on the population.


The Mental Health and Addiction Workforce Action Plan 2017-2021 

This strategic plan (currently being upgraded) is a four year action plan to enable the primary health care, community and specialist workforce to be well equipped, integrated, competent and capable to focus on improving health and wellbeing.
It includes actions to develop a workforce with the right skills, knowledge, competencies and attitudes needed to design and deliver integrated and innovative responses.
The complete document is available for download in pdf format  


International Specialist Psychiatrists: Medical Council of New Zealand Registration

The first step to starting a career as a consultant / specialist in psychiatry in New Zealand is to apply for eligibility for provisional vocational registration as a specialist psychiatrist with the Medical Council of  New Zealand, the single organisation responsible for licenisng all physicians in the country. 
The three actions you will need to complete are:
  1. EPIC Report - primary source verification of qualifications which can be obtained and managed within the EPIC Portfolio 
  2. IELTS or OET Test to demonstrate English language proficiency if English is not your native language or if you are not eligible for an exemption 
  3. Assessment for eligibility for vocational registration by submission of a completed form and references.
Once the Medical Council of New Zealand has assessed your qualifications, experience and postgraduate training, the council will reach a decision about your eligibility to work in New Zealand and classify you as compatible, partially compatible or incompatible with an equivalent New Zealand trained psychiatrist. 
For physicians deemed compatible or partiallly compatible, you will be perimitted to work provisionally in New Zealand. 
Psychiatrists trained in UK, Ireland, Canada, USA, Australia and South Africa are routinely considered as compatible. Qualifications which are generally granted equivalent status include MRCPsych / CCT. FRCPC, American Board of Psychiatry and FCPych (South Africa) but many qualifications from other countries are also considered by the College and successfully approved.
Psychiatrists assessed as partially compatible are usually instructed to work in a training post for a specific period of time.
Successful approval of a qualification allows the psychiatrist to apply for provisional vocational registration with the Medical Council of New Zealand and apply for specialist positions with the public mental health and addiction services.


Psychiatry Specialist Positions

The most commonly available jobs are in the following specialist fields:
  1. General Adult Psychiatry: in patient,  out patient and community mental health teams dealing with adults aged 18-65. Some roles are in early intervention teams or acute teams.
  2. Addictions Psychiatry: managing susbatance abuse in community teams, often in Maori communities
  3. Old Age Psychiatry; elderly patients 65 years and above. Dementia services have on going quality improvement projects.
  4. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: children and adolescents aged 18 and under
  5. Liaison Psychiatry: hospital based roles working with medical and surgical patients
  6. Forensic Psychiatry: working with mentally ill patients in the criminal justice system
There are many vacant positions throughout the country inclding the major cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch as well as the smaller cities and more rural areas. There are jobs to suit every lifestyle, rural and urban, coastal and inland.
There are psychiatrists jobs in tertiary hospitals offering highly specialised care, regional general hospitals providing secondary care and community health teams which work closely with primary care clinics.
Full time and part time jobs are available but physicians requiring a visa to work in New Zealand will have to receive a full time job offer.
Most jobs are permanent but sometimes fixed term contracts become available to cover leave and these offer an excellent opportunity to sample life and work in New Zealand whilst taking a break from current employment.


Postgraduate Psychiatry Training - House Officers and Registrars

International medical graduates wishing to specialise in psychiatry and undertake postgraduate training in New Zealand, should first apply for a house officer (PGY2 and above) or registrar (for physicians PGY3 and above with some experience in psychiatry)  job with one of the public sector hospitals in the 20 district health boards of New Zealand. 

These hospitals have two types of positions - training and service roles. The former are accredited by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists for training purposes whilst the latter are not. The service posts still offer sound clinical experience and can be a excellent entry point to the New Zealand healthcare system whilst you find your feet in the country and obtain full general registration and recognistion as a trainee psychiatrist.

The next step is to register as a trainee psychiatrist with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists and start to have your work experienced recognised.

The specialist training is divided into three levels- basic, intermediate and advanced - Stages 1,2 and 3 respectively and the College provides details of the competencies, assessments and examinations required to pass the Fellowship exam which allows the psychiatrist to obtain the Vocational Registration and practice as a specialist or consultant.


Psychiatrist Remuneration

Specialist Psychiatrists:

  • Annual salaries in the public healthcare system are paid according to the national collective agreement for Senior Medical and Dental Officers and are determined by years of experience.

  • Additional on call duties attract extra payments

  • Typical salaries are NZ$ 200-300 K per year

  • Salaries are paid 2 weekly

  • Work related expenses are reimbursed. This includes annual practice certificate, voactional registration fees, College Membership fees and course fees

  • 6 weeks paid annual leave

  • superannuation scheme

  • Continuing Medical Education (CME) allowance of 10 working days and $16,000 per year.

  • Sabbatical enitlement after 6 years of service

  • Relocation expenses


House Officers and Registrars

  • NZ RESIDENT DOCTORS’ ASSOCIATION COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT determines the pay and conditions of resident medical officers (house officers and registrars)
  • Registrar annual basic pay NZ$ 76,186 -187,890
  • House officer annual basic pay NZ$ 59,949- 132,451
  • Basic pay depends upon working hours
  • working hours limited to 16 hours per day and 72 hours per week (7 consecutive days)
  • superannuation
  • paid annual leave 6 weeks 

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