Croydon nurse ditches NHS job and moves to Canada where she earns 50% more

Audrey Barnwell in Canada. Photo released May 10 2024.
Audrey made the move after suffering chronic physical and mental exhaustion -Credit:SWNS

A Croydon nurse ditched her NHS job and moved to Canada where she earns 50% more and cares for a fraction of the patients. Audrey Barnwell, 50, from Thornton Heath, Croydon, found herself suffering from chronic physical and mental exhaustion for the first time in her life due to the demands of the job.

Days off became recovery time, motivation to see friends and family was lost and colleagues were quitting the profession left and right. Long hours saw Audrey walk home late at night or very early in the morning, which left her feeling frightened and vulnerable, triggering thoughts of looking for a new life elsewhere.

So, in 2008, she took the leap after extensive research on safe places to live - and Vancouver, in British Columbia, Canada, kept coming up. Speaking on behalf of the BC Health Careers UK Roadshow [], which is taking place around the UK from Saturday (11th May) to highlight short- and long-term working options in British Columbia, she said: "I love the NHS and always will. It's one of the UK's greatest creations."

READ MORE: NHS prescription charges to rise to almost £10 per item during costs of living crisis as critics say 'it puts a price on health'

A sunset over a beach in Vancouver, British Colombia
Audrey made the move to Vancouver, British Colombia after discovering it was a safe place to live -Credit:SWNS

She continued: "But, it's also a working environment that is not easy to be in day-in day-out, for staff and patients. Resources are tight, hard-working people are underpaid, and when you're stretched so thinly, it's impossible to give the kind of care to patients they deserve. The chances for something bad happening to a patient were far higher than they should have ever been, and it was a testament to how hard we worked as a nursing team that the worst case scenario didn't occur."

When she arrived in Canada for the first time, Audrey could not believe the difference. Audrey was surprised to see the nurses and all the healthcare staff were paid fairly for their work, with her salary going from £22,000 to the equivalent of more than £30,000 when she moved.

In a noticeable change to her previous experiences working in London, there were more beds, staff and machines available to help the staff to better do their jobs. In the UK she was caring for dozens of patients at a time, whereas in Canada, she can focus her efforts on just a handful, due to the larger team.

She used to be permanently exhausted coming off shift patterns in the UK working more than 80 hour weeks. But now, every morning she feels energised enough to get up at 4am for a run or hike in the mountains, beaches and trails before work with her new 38 hour long week, finding the clean air particularly liberating.

All while being able to progress her career a lot faster than she would have back at home. Audrey now returns to the UK to highlight the benefits that can be had from moving to North America, for either short working holidays, or as a long-term career move.

She added: "When the healthcare system you work in is properly resourced, it makes such a difference to you on a professional level. And, on a personal level, it's such a relief to be so much more financially secure and living in such a beautiful place. I'm sixteen years older than I was when I left the UK, but I have never had more energy in my life."

Get the biggest Croydon news, breaking updates and features straight to your inbox. Sign up to our Croydon Central newsletter here.