Guide to Working Abroad in a Medical Capacity
Did you know you can travel abroad and join important medical and healthcare volunteer projects which bring much needed help to people and communities in developing countries. A lot of people don't realise you don't need previous experience in the profession to participate on these types of rewarding programs. Medical missions bring a lot of care and attention to children and people in developing countries like India, Guatemala, Peru, Kenya and Nepal. You can be part of an outreach program which do amazing work, some placements can be hard work with long days but its totally worth it. In a non-medical capacity you might be helping experiences doctors and nurses with daily activities and helping with education people.
Medical volunteer programs run all year round and are flexible so can you can join around a job or family commitments. If you have always dreamed about exploring new countries and would like to do something different then you will love dental volunteer programs. You will meet new people from all over the world who devote their lives to helping others, these people might become friends for life as you will develop close bonds on these trips. Maybe you are looking to get out of your comfort zone and do something totally different where you can really help people. Or you want to take a different type of vacation and you have been thinking about a volunteering holiday. Positions can include assisting in hospitals or with community projects. On overseas healthcare programs you can help communities affected by poverty, disease and disability like in India you can support NGOs and charities by applying to local organizations.
On medical placements abroad you could be placed in an exotic continent like South America gaining a great understanding of the places you visit. By applying you are also likely to increase your chances of finding medical job openings and public health positions in the future enhancing your career. On nursing volunteer projects you could find work in Africa, maybe helping HIV Aids volunteer programs. Medical volunteer programs allow you to live and see a different part of the world and allows you to be part of rewarding projects which really make a difference in the developing world. These are great community service programs allowing you to give back to those in less fortunate situations in the world. In the Western world we take medical treatment and dental hygiene for granted but a lot of people don't ever get to see a doctor or receive information about health. Below we provide a run down on the types of positions available.
Medical Electives for Students
If you are currently studying or recently graduated we have placements especially for you. On these programs and internships you an boost your resume / CV and help people in the developing world. Lots of people apply every year and these placements are perfect if you are planning a career in healthcare. You will be able to learn from experienced professionals and see the impact programs have on communities. You can choose from hundreds of locations, popular destinations include India, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, Kenya, South Africa, Guatemala and Mexico. Please be aware that placements can be in rural and rustic conditions and far from Western standards. These programs are a great learning experience and also a lot of fun where you can make a huge difference to the lives of others. Volunteering on medical and healthcare placements is a great way to create strong bonds, you will usually stay in shared housing and get lots of time to interact and become friends with other participants.
We list specalist organisations which aim is to take all the hassle out of organizing an overseas elective, by providing you with safe and structured placements which include flights, accommodation, meals and in-country support. The idea of most projects is to have elective students carry out as much of the clinical work as possible, and while a sending agency organises all the logistics of each project, responsibility for clinical supervision lies with qualified local dentists. What your supervisor allows you to do will depend on the level of trust and respect you can earn by demonstrating your abilities and confidence, but the opportunity is there to really get some hands-on experience. These projects will be invaluable for both professional and personal development, as well as really standing out on your C.V.
There are placements all around the world, where you go really comes down to personal preference. You can search specific opportunities on our continent volunteer directories:
Types of Placements Available
Dental Volunteer Projects Abroad
Work with people and communities providing treatment and preventive care around the world. There are placements available to dentists and students to work at dental clinics, schools, orphanages and in remote villages in places like South America and Africa. Dental volunteer programs are an amazing experience but please note work can be difficult and challenging. Living and working conditions might be basic compared to Western standards but don't let this put you off. If you are training to be a dentist or are just interested in helping then this program is for you. As a volunteer dentist you will be able to provide care and examinations whilst as a volunteer hygienists you can help educate local people and assist children with hygiene care. If you have no dental work experience don't worry, non-medical volunteers are also needed to help around the world.
We list local and international volunteer organisations who offer safe and structured dental placements, you will get to travel to a new destination in the developing world and provide dental care to children and communities who do not have the facilities to get treatment. These placements are a great learning experience, you will get to shadow experienced dentists and work alongside prosthodontics and orthodontists helping with treatments like maxillary carcinoma excision, extractions, gross pathologies, teeth grinding and abscesses. On most outreach projects there are teams of around 5 dentists, 3 hygienists and also around 10 general assistants. Sometimes you might be helping literally hundreds of people every week, sometimes this can be exhausting but rewarding.
Nursing and Midwifery Projects
You will be working in big, busy wards and also smaller clinics providing care to a number of patients, some people will have minor injuries, rare illness and diseases, be pregnant or need other types of care. On midwifery placements you will be working on a successful motherhood program reducing the chances of maternal mortality and helping to deliver babies in a safe environment. As a volunteer nurse you will be able to provide healthcare and help local doctors in departments like paediatrics, neonatal intensive care or leprosy rehabilitation. To join you will need to be adaptable and open to living / working in a new environment.
You will get lots of help and support from local staff and there will usually be other international participants taking part in the programs too. Local people will be very welcoming and there are even free language lessons available to help you communicate better. Sometimes you might be working to treat communicable diseases, advanced pathologies, HIV, Aids, malaria, typhoid, tuberculosis and polio. Tasks can include treating patients with fevers, dressing wounds, getting people ready for surgery or generally assisting local doctors and nurses. On midwifery placements you might be helping deliver babies or working on neonatal and intensive care. These electives can be challenging as standards and equipment is not the same as in the UK for example.
Physiotherapy Placements Abroad
Some countries in the developing world suffer from a lack of practitioners and this is where there is a need for internationals seeking to make a difference to apply and help outpatients and inpatients. Initiative and creativity is welcomed on these placements, you will be able to help local staff and also create / implement new programs designed to help local people. You might be dealing with patients who have a wide range of problems, this placement will be a challenge where you will learn a lot.
You will be able to hone your basic skills, gain experience, learn new things and also see / treat rare cases like burn victims, polio and club foot. If you apply for a physiotherapy placement you will be working to treat various different patients seeing and treating rare diseases. Leprosy is a big problem in some countries, you will work in a hospital or neurorehabilitation clinic helping local people who have this disease. Other things you might be treating include strokes, accident injuries, muscle spasm, musculoskeletal, post-operative rehabilitation, child cerebral and other palsies, lower back problems and fractures.
Placements are available in places like Africa which will leave you memories to last a lifetime. The experience and hospitals will be a lot different than what you are used to, you will get a real insight into life in a country you might not have expected. On these placements you will work in a regional government hospital and tend to around 20 patients per day learning new skills and really being able to make a difference to the lives of local people. On radiography electives you will get to working with local doctors and staff helping patients and using x ray machines, CT and MRI scanners. On these placements you might be doing any of the following / treating tuberculosis, brain lesions, tumours, breast screening, neuro-cysticercosis, traumatic injury and gross pathology.
HIV / Aids Volunteer Projects
You can help make a difference in the battle against HIV and AIDS on volunteer awareness and medical programs in places like Africa, Asia and worldwide. HIV / AIDS is a problem facing communities all around the world. In Africa a lot of work is being done to help educate people and to assist medically to pro-long peoples lives. Educating local communities about the causes of HIV / Aids and the treatments is really important. If you have any medical experience you could join outreach projects which help people in developing countries by treating and assisting with healthcare issues. You could care for patients in hospitals or at community projects. A lot of projects which deal with are about education but still to this day, some people and communities do not know about the risks of HIV infection. South Africa has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world and you can really help make a difference here. Popular destinations include Ghana, South Africa and India.
Work overseas in a pharmacy dispensary, joining professionals on ward rounds and discussing patient plans will give you an amazing cultural experience and understanding of the drug limitations faced by developing countries. You will be working in teams with staff from all over the world making lifelong friendships and creating memories to last a lifetime. These types of programs are really popular with students seeking experience and apply early as places fill up quick. You will be able to see the benefits you bring to people whilst helping local staff and learning about new countries and the way other people live. Some projects can last anywhere from 1 week to over 3 months, it's not all work too there will be lots of time for sightseeing and relaxing time.
Help animals around the world and get up close to endangered species conservation.
Educational and Awareness Projects
Help people in the developing world learn about eating healthy, prevent disease and raise awareness of illness around the world. These programs make an amazing difference to the lives of thousands of people every year and you can join all year round even if you don't already work in a healthcare area. Each destination and project is different.
Eligibility & Requirements
Usually you need to be on, or have completed a healthcare course anywhere in the world to apply. This is provided you can obtain the appropriate visa for your destination country. As a general rule, placements in each category are only available to those studying in that particular discipline, for example medical placements are only available to medical students or professionals. The exception to this is that we now accept student and professional nurses in to our midwifery placements, provided they have some experience in this area. There are also sometimes general placements available to non-skilled professionals where you can help behind the scenes with education and awareness.
How to Apply
Most programs are offered as part of a package where you will need to pay a joining fee. This generally includes:
Fully structured and supervised placement
Extensive pre-departure preparation
Personalised online elective planner
All university and visa supporting documentation
Airport pick up and local orientation
24/7 support in country
There are free, low cost and also paid volunteering programs programs available worldwide usually with local NGO's and large international charities. You can browse our opportunities and apply today. Visit our volunteer abroad directory for more options or e-mail us for advice about medical positions overseas.