Billions of people currently do not have access to proper medical care or preventative education; donating your time through medical volunteering abroad may seem like a small step, but the impacts of this experience are large and far-reaching. Those with a medical degree, or even those on their way to one, have much to offer the international community by volunteering abroad in medicine. Medical volunteers can use their knowledge to help those with limited access to medical care while exploring new parts of the world, and come home with a renewed understanding of the importance of medicine and a new passion fo their profession.
Why Volunteer Abroad in Medicine
If you’re currently working toward your degree in nursing, medicine, dentistry, or a related medical field, becoming a medical volunteer abroad can be a great addition to your resume. For those who have just completed their undergraduate degree and are seeking admission to a graduate school in medicine, volunteering abroad can greatly increase your attractiveness as a potential graduate student. Additionally, international work experience will show your dedication to the medical profession and willingness to help others by volunteering your time and skills.
Many individuals in the medical profession are driven by altruism, and seek to help those less fortunate live healthier, happier lives. Medical volunteering abroad can fulfill any giving spirit and allow volunteers to gain a deeper insight into what healthcare looks like in different areas of the world. Often, hospitals in urban areas abroad are underserved in terms of medical professional staff, while rural clinics in developing countries operate vastly differently and usually with limited supplies and resources, such as medicines and vital medical technology like vaccines and MRI machines.
Overall, becoming a medical volunteer abroad in a hospital, clinic, or another type of community facility can expand your knowledge of the medical profession and introduce you to a new perspective on modern medicine, and expose you to the true availability of healthcare around the world.
Fortunately, there are people in need in every country in the world, so you can work as a medical volunteer abroad in any area that interests you. Impoverished nations are the more popular options for medical volunteering abroad, but underserved areas exist in every country, including well-developed cities. However, trauma work is often an exceptional area of interest, as it is generally located in areas experiencing the aftermath of a natural disaster or countries that are home to refugee relief camps.
Numerous countries in Africa celebrate international medical volunteers and welcome them with open arms. South Africa, although modern in most parts of the country, still struggles as a nation with one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the world. Kenya, home to hundreds of national parks and reserves, sees many citizens affected by malaria, yellow fever, and cholera; most cases of these diseases are easily treated in modern facilities, or by doctors with sufficient medical background and skills.
Asia is a hotbed for international medical volunteers, as many coastal cities see frequent natural disasters and poorer regions regularly lack even basic health care. The Philippines, Thailand, and Nepal all awe volunteers with their boundless natural beauty. However, these nations struggle with availability of vaccines for locals as well as sanitation and public health and safety in crowded inner cities, hence medical volunteer work in these countries can be quite rewarding.
Latin American countries like Guatemala and Ecuador may seem like ideal tourist destinations, but locals in Latin America often struggle with medical issues associated with poverty, including lack of sanitation, limited availability of healthy foods, and lack of dental care. Local hospitals are often understaffed and rely on volunteers and donations to make ends meet and provide adequate care.
Medical Volunteering Abroad
Day-to-day tasks of a medical volunteer abroad can vary greatly depending on many factors related to each volunteer’s level of education, certificates, and completed degrees. In nearly every medical volunteer placement, a nursing certificate or a medical degree makes individuals highly in demand, but those currently completing medical or nursing training (or still in a preparatory undergraduate program) are also welcomed as volunteers.
Medical volunteering abroad for those with a medical, dental, or nursing degree will likely be in a hospital or clinic, fulfilling roles to help the facility operate similarly to hospitals and clinics at home. Skilled medical volunteers may help local medical professionals administer vaccinations, diagnose patients, and prescribe medications. General medical volunteers, on the other hand, will have the opportunity to help with more administrative duties.
Additionally, medical volunteers are always needed in centers that offer medical care to physically or mentally disabled children. In developing countries especially, disabled children and adults are often not a medical priority and fall through the cracks. Volunteering to support this vulnerable population of individuals can give volunteers the chance to teach and provide treatment in highly underserved facilities.
Many individuals who decide to become a medical volunteer abroad will work to educate citizens about preventative health care. Many institutions work in the realm of HIV/AIDS awareness, including education for locals on safe sexual practices, and helping children orphaned by the near two million AIDS deaths annually. In many parts of the world, diet and nutrition information is not readily taught, so maladies like diabetes and heart disease are widespread and growing. Therefore, medical volunteers can work in hospitals, orphanages, or local community centers passing on information about healthy nutrition standards to families.
Anyone with altruistic tendencies can see the benefits of donating their time and professional medical knowledge to those in need around the world, especially in poorer areas of the world where people are less fortunate when it comes to access to necessary medical care.
Improve Your People Skills. Working as a medical volunteer abroad in a country where you may not understand the local language can improve your ability to communicate non-verbally, by using intermediates, charts, and symbols to gauge a patient’s current state and needs. These experiences will expand your vocabulary and ability to care for a range of patients.
- Broaden Your Medical Expertise. Working with medical peers who have been trained in other countries can expose you to new treatment possibilities, alternative medical care practices, and an overall fresh perspective on the medical industry. Volunteers often return home thankful for modern medical breakthroughs, and with new knowledge of alternative therapies for patients.