Becoming a nursing volunteer abroad may be one of the most rewarding travel experiences you’ll ever have. Volunteering in nursing abroad will provide you with opportunities to not only utilize your medical training and gain exposure to new specialties, but also help people in very desperate need. International nursing volunteers not only address medical needs through their placements, they can also help improve local understanding and treatment of health conditions as well as encourage social and economic development.
Why Volunteer Abroad in Nursing
The need for well-trained medical volunteers is growing and spans across the globe. Some estimates suggest that over one billion people in the world live without access to basic health care. By using your nursing degree or experience in the field to help meet both basic healthcare needs and urgent and life threatening conditions, you will make a true impact on the world as you gain intercultural skills fit for any professional resume.
With medical conditions and standards of care differing between countries and cultures, volunteering in nursing abroad can be a great way to experience these differences firsthand, which will be especially helpful if you hope to pursue nursing jobs overseas in the future. Patient’s rights and medical professional’s rights are given varying priorities across borders, providing even more opportunities for learning through nursing volunteering abroad.
Before diving into a long-term internship or job in nursing, get experience as a volunteer nurse abroad and you’ll gain great on-the-job training to prepare you for life as a nurse.
The need for nurses truly is global. Both western and eastern countries have a need for nurses, as do both developed and developing countries. In order to narrow down where you want to work as a nurse volunteer abroad, it is important to determine what you hope to accomplish from volunteering abroad.
Nursing volunteer work in Europe is a great way to learn the field of nursing in general. Most countries in these regions will have developed healthcare systems that practice traditional, western medicine. Becoming a nursing volunteer abroad in these countries is akin to a less structured study abroad program, with the added chance of gaining more practical experience that can be transferred home to a career in nursing.
Africa and South America provide great hands on experience for any nursing volunteer abroad. The culture of medicine and availability of resources vary widely in these regions, making nursing volunteer placements in these locations the perfect opportunity to experience the challenges of healthcare on a global scale. Many of the diseases being treated in these areas are also localized, so as a nursing volunteer abroad participants will be able to stretch their experience with a range of conditions and treatments.
Asia is home to a variety of non-traditional medical practices, frequently referred to as Eastern Medicine. If you are looking for exposure to different methods and technologies used in healthcare, nursing volunteer work in Asia is the perfect way to witness a different approach to healthcare.
Volunteer Nursing Abroad
Placements for volunteering in nursing abroad can last anywhere from two weeks to a year, depending on each volunteer’s interest and availability and the needs of the specific community. Usually an education in nursing or experience in the field is required to secure a nursing volunteer job overseas (although some sites and projects offer on the job training too).
Many placements for individuals who want to become a nursing volunteer abroad fall in the realm of disaster relief (also known as medical missions). These types of volunteer nursing placements provide volunteers with the chance to visit areas that have been devastated by war or natural disasters and provide basic humanitarian aid or emergency medical services. Services provided by volunteer nurses range from simple annual check-ups to vaccinations to treatment for disease outbreaks.
Public Health Education is in huge demand all over the world. Nursing volunteers can help promote health education in clinics by teaching basic skills and healthy habits like teeth brushing or infant nutrition. Some of nursing volunteer opportunities abroad in public health occur in a set hospital or clinic, while others may allow volunteers to travel around to a variety of locations.
Working as a nursing volunteer abroad at a hospital is a great way to add differentiated work experience to your resume. Many international hospitals provide nursing volunteer jobs overseas that are typically only offered to experienced, registered nurses in the United States. For example, you may be able to do a rotation in the operating room as a nursing volunteer abroad, a position that is not available for nursing students state-side.
Most nursing volunteer opportunities abroad look for English speakers, although some sites in South America may require some basic fluency in Spanish too.
THIS JUST IN: GoAbroad & Lonely Planet are giving away a $2,500 volunteer abroad scholarship—deadline Nov. 14. Apply now!
- Language Skills: Medical vocabulary is rarely covered in a basic foreign language class. Nursing volunteering abroad can provide opportunities to learn new vocabulary.
- International Perspectives: Volunteers will be able to gain insights on how the setting, technology, and culture influence the practice of medicine and administration of healthcare.
- Professional Development: There are many nursing volunteer opportunities abroad that allow nurses to gain practice in settings that are not offered to nursing students in the United States. There is also the potential to treat diseases and conditions that don’t frequently occur in more developed countries.