Nurse ditches NHS job to move to Canada - and her salary increases by 50% overnight

Audrey Barnwell enjoying her free time.
Audrey Barnwell enjoying her free time. -Credit:SWNS

A nurse who left her NHS job to move to Canada, where she now earns 50 per cent more and cares for fewer patients, says she's never looked back. Audrey Barnwell, 50, from Thornton Health, Surrey, found herself suffering from chronic physical and mental exhaustion due to the demands of her 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 walking 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.

In 2008, after extensive research on safe places to live, she took the leap and moved to Vancouver, in British Columbia, Canada. Speaking on behalf of the BC Health Careers UK Roadshow, which is taking place around the UK from Saturday (11th May), she said: "I love the NHS and always will. It's one of the UK's greatest creations."

"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."

Upon her arrival in Canada for the very first time, Audrey could hardly contain her disbelief at the stark contrast. It stunned her to find that nurses and other healthcare workers received fair and appropriate compensation for their work. Her income surged from £22,000 to the relative equivalent of over £30,000 following her move.

Audrey Barnwell, from Thornton Health, Surrey.
Audrey Barnwell, from Thornton Health, Surrey. -Credit:SWNS

Marks of the variations compared to her earlier labouring days in London were clear; there were more beds, staffers and medical devices at hand to aid them in performing their duties better. In the UK, she was responsible for attending to dozens of patients single-handedly, whereas, in the Canadian setup, she is able to concentrate on just a couple due to the larger workforce.

The exhausting repercussions of spending countless hours exceeding 80 per week on duty in the UK were palpable. Presently, every dawn finds her re-energised and ready to arise as early as 4am for either a jog or mountain climbing, beach jaunts and trail expeditions before resuming her duties during her newly adjusted 38-hour workweek. She particularly savours the refreshing and clean air around her.

Her career growth has been rapid, much quicker than what it would've been if she had remained in the UK. Audrey now makes regular return trips to the UK to spread the word about the pronounced pros that are up for grabs with a move to North America, irrespective of whether it's for short-term vocational holidays or as a long-standing career decision.

She further stated: "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."