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Better Life, Work Balance: Japanese Anaesthetist

Better Balance of Life and Work, Japanese Anaesthetist

Auckland’s Greenlane Clinical Centre has on its staff the first Japanese born person to qualify as a Fellow of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (FANZCA).

A quietly determined DrTomoko Hara has settled in New Zealand after overcoming some significant obstacles, while being blessed with some good fortune on the way.

She now has permanent residency in New Zealand. She had to gain fluency in spoken English, maintain her visa entitlements, and learn a whole new way of life.

Tomoko graduated from medical school in her home city of Okayama, with a population of some 500,000, half way between Osaka and Hiroshima, in 1991 and worked as a trainee anaesthetist, first in the University Hospital at Okayama and later in Hiroshima.

In Japan, she specialised in paediatric cardiac anaesthesia, but found the 60 to 90 hours’ work each week – normal for many medical staff in Japan – not to her liking.

“Here, there is a better balance between life and work, and a better quality of work,” Tomoko says.

The Okayama University Hospital Department of Anaesthesia had links with Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital Intensive Care Unit and she left Japan for the first time when an opportunity arose for her to gain more experience in her specialty at the RCH over 12 months.

Subsequently, Tomoko was able to obtain a registrar’s job at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, where she spent another 12 months working as an anaesthetic registrar.

Just as her Australian visa was running out opportunity knocked again, when a former colleague in Japan, who at the time was working in New Zealand, advised her of a position at the Greenlane Clinical Centre, which she took up in February, 2001. Initially, she had a fixed contract for 12 months.

An enthusiastic and determined professional, Tomoko gained a six-month extension of her contract, and in 2002 gained a qualification in echocardiography, widely used in cardiac work.

“Then, another opportunity when eligibility for overseas trained anaesthetists to sit for the Australian qualification was widened, allowing me to sit the examination for my FANZCA,” Tomoko says.

“My efforts in learning spoken English paid off, since 80 per cent of the examination mark relies largely on oral answers.

“Japanese schools taught English writing and reading and very little spoken English, but I listened regularly to a radio education channel for more than five years to hone my spoken English.

“Most of the education material available in English was produced in the United States, and when I first came to Australia I could not believe they were speaking English. It took a while to get used to what they were saying.

“Patients in Australia and New Zealand are more open and ask questions of their doctors, which they don’t do in Japan,” Tomoko says.

“Here, there is a better life style and quality of work, which I appreciate.

“Initially, my family – father, mother and brother – were disappointed that I had decided to live in another country, but my mother visited New Zealand recently and after I think they now better understand my choice,” Tomoko says.

In her spare time, Dr Tomoko Hara enjoys gardening, and scuba diving, which she has done in several Pacific island nations, and off New Zealand’s North Island coast.


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