In the past, it seemed almost unthinkable that North American medical school or nursing school graduates would pack their bags to work full-time overseas. There were always doctors and nurses who wanted to travel in order to give medical care to underprivileged communities, but the idea of applying for long-term work visas or even residency status overseas was virtually unthinkable.
Times are changing. Although Australia and New Zealand have often been the main travel destination for doctors and nurses in North America because their credentials were immediately accepted, new destinations are becoming possible and popular. This includes locations in the Middle East, such as the United Arab Emirates.
Why Choose to Work Abroad?
For many doctors, the satisfaction of a medical career in the United States is declining. As one doctor described his decision to practice overseas: “I was working in a hospital 110 hours per week. I was on call every other day. My business had increased by 25%, but I was making 10% less.” It’s a chance to travel, but still care for people.
There’s also a general dissatisfaction, especially in the United States, about the quality of the health care system. Many doctors and nurses love medicine, but not the practice of medicine. Choosing to work abroad can help that love become restored.
Working abroad also tends to give doctors and nurses an opportunity to enjoy a slower pace of life internationally. Many of the greatest positions of need tend to be in rural areas, but the salaries for these professionals are still highly competitive. Many doctors, for example can earn up to $650 per day plus have allowances for housing, airfare, and insurance. Specialist can earn up to $950 per day according to American Medical News – and that’s from 2009 data.
How to Practice Medicine Overseas
To work in the field of medicine outside of North America, the easiest way to develop opportunities is to enroll in a medical school that has been accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education. You will also likely need to complete a residency program in order to qualify for the international work visas that will be offered to practice medicine overseas. Sometimes this residency program can be completed in your country of choice.
Although many countries are accepting international standards of medicine and recognize North American credentials, this is not yet the case everywhere in the world today. You will need to be certified by the country’s licensing board after completing your residence. There will likely be other licenses required as well to maintain your stay in the country.
The biggest change, however, especially for US doctors and nurses, is that the United States treats medicine as a business. Overseas it is often treated as a personal right. As one forum respondent stated:
“I sometimes wonder if practicing and living in some radical Islamic state couldn’t possibly be more oppressive than working in the US healthcare system. Or how working in some inner US city ghetto hospital makes volunteering for Doctors Without Borders in the former Belgian Congo seem like an escape to paradise.”
Specialty choice does often affect the ability to work in certain locations. In the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and similar nations, becoming certified isn’t usually too difficult with a North American education. The only issue, of course, is that the salary which can be made in the US is often much higher than what can be earned overseas. In the Pacific Northwest, for example, a doctor in 2010 could make $770 per day – up to $120 more than the maximum earned overseas.
Is Working Abroad Right for You?
If you’re thinking about working abroad, then the first decision to be made is to select the country where you wish to work. Most nations today offer a comprehensive list of needed skill areas where immigration or long-term work visas are quickly offered. Here’s an example: New Zealand offers specific information for US citizens who wish to move to their country.
You may or may not be required to locate and confirm an available job before making your move. Each country is different. If you have any questions, ask the immigration department of your preferred nation any questions you may have with the process.
Living and working overseas can be very rewarding for North American doctors and nurses. Although the salary will often be less, the working hours are also be less and the ability to travel on a regular basis can be a great reward. Give it some thought, try it short-term for 12 months or less to see if you like it, and you may just discover that your medical degree has unlocked an entire world of potential for you.