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A global calling: Dentists working outside the UK

Written by: David Payne
Published on: 24 Nov 2017

A global calling: Dentists working outside the UK

A regular question asked of Lynn  Doleman by dentists looking to move to Australia is: “How rural is rural?”

“A small town in Australia is nothing like Crocodile Dundee,” she tells them, reassuring jobseekers that in the vast majority of cases, country life outside the country’s major conurbations bears little resemblance to Walkabout Creek, the gritty Northern Territory community depicted in the 1986 romantic comedy starring Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowski.

But the question is a sensible one for UK dentists looking to relocate. In 2015 Australia’s federal government removed dentists from its list of “skilled migrants” following an increase in dental schools across the country. 

Because Australia is now training more home grown dentists, there are fewer employment opportunities for newly-arrived expats in the major cities and larger towns. A typical first job in Australia, therefore, is more likely to be in a rural practice, but not in the “ocker” environment of Walkabout Creek (its 21st century namesake, incidentally, is an upmarket wedding venue just outside Brisbane!). “The days of being able to pick and choose jobs are gone,” says Doleman.

Doleman has first-hand experience of living in Australia, describing herself as a “nomad” whose career in corporate HR has also taken her to the US, Rome, and Zurich. She founded ROC Human Resources, her recruitment agency, 20 years ago. She and her team of 10 are currently based in Dubai, another popular location for UK dentists looking to work overseas.

Both the Middle East and Australasia have much to offer, she insists, and a good recruitment agency can do much to reduce the headache and anxiety of relocating to far-flung and exotic corners of the globe. 

In the case of Australia, a typical first question from a job seeking dentist is about visa requirements. Since 2015 entry is now via a working holiday visa or a 457 sponsorship visa, (the temporary work skills visa program, which typically takes between 8-10 weeks to process.) 

Visitors can apply for permanent residency after two years. Eligibility for citizenship comes after four years. You must have been a permanent resident for at least one of those years, and cannot have been absent from Australia for more than one year in total. The Dental Board of Australia is the country’s registration body. British dental graduates can register without having to take an exam, and the process typically takes around 4-6 weeks.

Registration exams for the UAE may be done online and in person and it takes around three months to obtain the license.

 Crocodile Dundee
Rural dentistry in Australia is a far cry from the outback community depitced in the 1986 movie Crocodile Dundee, starring Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowski.

Agencies advise on many other topics related to moving abroad. “A good agency will try to offer support around a lot of the more mundane things related to moving,” she says. “We can also answer questions about what it’s actually like to live somewhere. 

“If a dentist has a partner, we can advise on whether they can get a job. If they have children, we can advise on schools.

“With questions around finances, and this applies both to the Middle East and to Australia, I urge dentists not to think about what they earn in the UK. They should think of the experience, and not just finances. 

“In the Middle East, for example, salaries are high and tax free and VAT is levied at 5% across the whole of the Gulf region from January 2018. Most people have a maid, particularly if you have children, either full live in or part time via an agency. 

 “But there are hidden taxes and utilities such as electricity and water are expensive. Also education costs a lot. Schools are opening everywhere and the standard is very high, but international schools are very costly and a lot of families send their children back to board in the UK.”

How easy is it for female dentists to find work in the Middle East? Doleman says it is pretty straightforward. Woman are treated as equal, she says, apart from in Saudi Arabia. In September 2017, King Salman allowed women to obtain driving licences for the first time. Expat communities there, she says, typically live on designated compounds. 

A recurring question asked of all global dental recruiters these days is the likely impact of Brexit. Are dentists from EU Member States who have settled in the UK now seeking to develop their careers further afield? Doleman says her agency is starting to be contacted by Spanish, Portuguese and Polish dentists who are looking to leave and considering either Australia or the UAE.

Michel Sergent is a Swiss dentist who owns four large clinics in the French speaking part of Switzerland (the country is not part of the EU) and regularly recruits from all over Europe, all of whom work as self-employed practitioners (a straightforward process to set up, he says). The most common questions asked by dentists looking to move there, he adds, are about the standard of living and language requirements.

Sergent says: “They all know that in Switzerland the living standard is higher than perhaps any other country in Europe, but they also know that Switzerland is more expensive.

“The second question is about the language. They need to have at least a B2 level in the Alliance Française exam. The Alliance Française has schools all over Europe.

“Mostly we recruit senior dentists who are able to perform in all the fields apart from orthodontics (which we don’t offer any more).”

Sergent points to Switzerland’s high ranking in The Economist newspaper’s league tables, particularly for families, offering excellent public schools, and the ease with which they integrate newcomers. “The schools can easily cope with younger pupils coming from elsewhere who don’t speak French.”

Qualified dentists planning to relocate to Switzerland typically need at least two years’ experience and must speak at least one of Switzerland’s national languages - French, Italian, or German.

Sergent currently employs 27 dentists and has more than 100,000 patients across his four clinics (a first is planned). At the moment none of his practitioners are British. Will Brexit entice some European dentists currently based in the UK to Switzerland?

“There will be an impact,” Sergent predicts, adding: “I have had some calls from dentists who says they will perhaps leave the UK because of Brexit. I was in contact with two Romanian dentists, now working in the UK, who would like to come to Switzerland because of Brexit.” 


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