I’ve got the itch to travel. Okay, I’ve always got the itch to travel. Whether it be to hike and camp the Grand Canyon or to lounge on the beach in Australia, you can pretty much count me in as a companion if you’ve got a trip on the books. One career goal of mine would be to work internationally as a nurse practitioner. Not only would this serve as a cool cultural experience, I’d also like to observe and participate in practicing medicine abroad.
While I haven’t pulled the trigger on planning such an international career expedition, I have done plenty of research so I’m ready when the opportunity arises. If you too are a nurse practitioner with a bent for international adventure, here are five ways NPs can work abroad.
1. Work for the U.S. Department of State
The U.S. Department of State employs nurse practitioners and physician assistants to work in countries across the globe. Job duties may include providing medical care for US government employees stationed overseas, collaborating with local healthcare officials, coordinating emergency medical response efforts and managing health personnel and resources.
Previous job postings listed on the US Department of State website for NPs and PAs have included locations like Ethiopia, China, Ecuador, Greece and more. While practicing abroad sounds glamorous and alluring, the State Department warns that the position can be “very challenging and sometimes dangerous“.
If you’re a nurse practitioner or physician assistant with a bent for adventure and an allure for things abroad, working for the CIA just might be for you. The agency uses nurse practitioners and physician assistants to “deliver medical and traumatic care within austere environments”. This can include responsibilities like “establishing and operating remote independent duty clinics”, “providing didactic instruction in survival skills” and “delivering medical and traumatic care within austere environments”.
3. Officially Relocate
It can be difficult to become a nurse practitioner internationally by taking the path of simply relocating and applying for jobs as the role of NPs in most countries is still developing. Not to mention, to work abroad you’ll need to meet a number of requirements such as applying for a work visa in your host country. While this isn’t impossible, it may not be the easiest path to an international NP career. Check out our blog posts about working in Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom for a more in depth look at the process.
4. U.S. Territories Count
Becoming a citizen or at least obtaining the right to be employed in another country requires a lot of time and paperwork and may not be an option for many nurse practitioners who are U.S. citizens. So, why not work in a U.S. territory? Living and practicing in a U.S. territory offers the away-from-the mainland experience that adventurous nurse practitioners seek – without the hassle. So, check out job opportunities in Guam (here’s how NPs can work in Guam) or Puerto Rico (more on how NPs can work in PR).
5. Volunteer with Aid Organizations
Don’t immediately write off the possibility of volunteering if you need some sort of income. There are several organizations that provide stipends to healthcare providers to offset the cost of volunteering their time and services. While the stipend won’t be a direct substitute for your NP or PA salary, it will help cover the cost of living abroad such as meals, lodging and basic living expenses. If volunteering internationally sounds like something you’d be interested in, you have a number of options. Check out the Peace Corp’s Global Health Service Partnership, Mercy Ships (which will literally take your NP career overseas) or Doctors Without Borders to start.
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