3 Ways to Work Internationally as a Nurse Practitioner

This time of year, with the back to school season, I start to feel work pressures mounting. Gone are the leisurely days of summer. Productivity is all around me. “How long until we can retire to Argentina, or the South of France, or somewhere fabulously warm and beachy?” I ask my husband. No pressure. Fortunately, as nurse practitioners we may not need to wait for retirement to hit up the global scene

Working internationally can be logistically difficult. Given the varied scopes of practice among nurse practitioners working in other countries, U.S. certified NPs may or may not be eligible to practice in some countries. Work visas and other government regulations may also deter NPs from practicing overseas. But, for nurse practitioners willing to overcome these setbacks, there are many opportunities to practice abroad. If you’re in the mood for a cultural career change-up, the following are ways you can work internationally as a nurse practitioner

1. Foreign Service Medical Provider

Foreign Service Medical Providers are employed by the U.S. Department of State and work in countries across the globe- from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Beijing, China or Quito, Ecuador there are endless locations a career with the U.S. State Department may land you.  The U.S. Department of State warns that as a Foreign Service Provider you may work in small or remote countries, harsh climates and in environments where American-style amenities and the latest technological advances are often unavailable (If you are like me, this is actually a job endorsement rather than deterrent).  

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Responsibilities of nurse practitioners working as Foreign Service Medical Providers include providing primary health care services, managing preventative medicine programs such as ensuring safe drinking water, coordinating emergency medical response, and evaluating local medical resources. Applicants to the program must have at least four years of clinical experience within the past six years. 

2. Sponsored International Volunteer Positions

One major setback to volunteering abroad is cost. International flights, lodging and living expenses add up quickly making it unfeasible for many nurse practitioners to take advantage of such opportunities. Thankfully, some organizations receive outside funding helping to mitigate the cost of travel for volunteers. Doctors Without Borders, for example, pays volunteers a stipend of just over $1,500 each month as well as covers the cost of training, travel, insurance, and assistance accommodating student loan payments

One of the largest and most recognized volunteer organizations in the world, the Peace Corps has a presence in 76 countries and needs nurses to help meet healthcare needs in these locations. The organization’s Global Health Service Partnership places volunteers across the globe to work on health projects such as malaria prevention, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, nutrition and more. Volunteers with the Peace Corps receive a monthly living stipend, paid travel expenses, and housing.

3. Direct Certification and Licensure 

Some countries allow U.S citizens to apply directly for licensure as nurse practitioners. Canada, for example, allows nurse practitioners educated and certified in the United States to apply for Canadian licensure. The United Kingdom also allows U.S. educated nurse practitioners to practice in the country. Keep in mind that the process of becoming certified and licensed in a new country can be quite lengthy. It may also require that NPs retake nursing and or nurse practitioner certification exams. 

Relocating to a U.S. territory like Guam makes the logistics of working abroad less challenging. Guam recognizes the same certifying bodies as U.S. states such as the AANP and the ANCC and also has a licensing process similar to that in most states. 

Do you plan to take your nurse practitioner practice abroad?


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8 thoughts on “3 Ways to Work Internationally as a Nurse Practitioner”

  1. Hi Carol, 

    Yes. I believe there are nurse practitioners in Japan as well as India. Also, the U.S. Department of State hires NPs to work in U.S. outposts abroad. 

  2. Thanks for the info! Btw, you’re using “setback” incorrectly in the post above. A “challenge” or a “hurdle” would be better words. A setback puts you in a worse position than when you started, which is not what you mean to say here.

  3. Pingback: How to Become a Nurse Practitioner and What Salary to Expect

  4. setback is right usage holmes. if you are used to working as NP and they don’t let you then you are setback from what you are allowed to do in the States boss.

  5. I am a FNP and volunteered in Guatemala in 2019. I’m trying to go back with a different organization who is telling me that nurse practitioners cannot practice at all in Guatemala. Does anyone know the answer to this? Thank you.

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