Nursing shortages extend beyond the U.S., and the skills of American-trained nurses are highly desirable around the world. Opportunities abound for motivated and prepared nurses to practice in a variety of locations from nearby nations such as Canada and Mexico to countries in Africa and Asia.
Substantial work experience as a registered nurse (RN) is often a prerequisite for overseas positions. Further education, including an online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), makes candidates even more sought after. Nurses who want to work abroad also need to pass the National Council Licensing Exam (NCLEX-RN) to qualify, according to Scrubs Mag.
Beyond educational requirements and work experience, nurses should study the language of the country where they intend to practice. Some overseas hospitals may hire translators to help nurses to understand their patients, and for patients to understand the nurse, according to Scrubs. But the best scenario is when nurses have language skills that allow them to communicate effectively.
Educational options such as Ohio University’s online MSN program can help lay the groundwork for a work experience abroad. OHIO’s MSN program prepares nurses for advanced careers as family nurse practitioners (FNPs), many of whom will find success and satisfaction nursing in exotic or underserved communities.
Finding and Preparing for an Overseas Nursing Job
Taking a nursing position overseas can be life-transforming. Nurses can expect to encounter issues they wouldn’t see at home and gain skills in intercultural communication. Their ability to learn quickly and adapt to another culture will also impress future employers.
Choosing an overseas experience lets others know that a nurse is interested in helping people beyond the U.S., according to Troy Peden, founder of GoAbroad.com. He adds that many nurses who pursue jobs beyond their national borders often experience personal transformations through connection to local people, relationships with unfamiliar cultures, and “the realization of what you are capable of and what you want your direction to be.”
Several U.S. agencies directly hire nurses to work abroad. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) often arrange nursing jobs with private companies worldwide, as well as fellowships and internships. Recent nursing graduates may be able to find overseas training programs, and finally, the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps hires nurses and other medical professionals.
The U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is a uniformed nonmilitary service, and its pay, benefits, and retirement correspond to that of people in uniform. Nurses are among the 11 disciplines included in the program.
The Foundation for International Medical Relief for Children, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit, offers a Global Health Nursing Fellowship for nursing professionals who want to gain experience in international medicine. Fellows, all of whom are volunteers, work in a clinical setting and have the chance to implement a public health campaign in countries like Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Philippines, or Uganda.
Other organizations that offer overseas nursing opportunities include GoAbroad.com, which lists opportunities in Canada, Ireland, China, Vietnam, and Germany, and Doctors Without Borders, which provides humanitarian aid in more than 70 countries.
Working overseas requires a variety of legal documents, beginning with a valid passport. A visa and a nursing license are also basic necessities, and according to Scrubs, overseas boards and councils often have separate requirements.
Depending on where they are going, nurses might also need to contact a national nursing board such as the Nursing and Midwifery Council of the U.K., the Australian Nursing Council, or the South African Nursing Council.
Benefits of Working Abroad
Working for a while in another country can bolster a nurse’s career in a variety of ways, including:
- A more-rounded resume
A résumé that includes overseas experience impresses prospective employers, especially when combined with an MSN degree. It shows that nurses are curious, culturally aware, resourceful, and able to see things from more than one perspective.
- Language skills
Learning another language “will allow you to engage with patients from the country you’re working in on a much more personal level,” according to Work the World, an organization focusing on volunteer healthcare internships in developing countries. “It’ll also earn you the respect of local healthcare professionals and enhance your experience.”
Foreign language skills may be useful back home as well when dealing with patients who are not proficient in English.
Nurses working in what Work the World called a “low-resource setting” learn from local staff how to be creative about providing care. For example, supplies that American or European nurses consider standard may be scarce at some hospitals. Ashleigh Buncombe Paul, who worked in Iloilo, Philippines, through Work the World, writes on the site about how she learned to make hand splints from cardboard boxes.
The world awaits nurses who want to expand their horizons and help others. Earning an online MSN can improve the chance of qualifying for an overseas position ― which, in turn, can lead to enhanced job prospects and greater career satisfaction for nurses when they return home.
Ohio University’s Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Program
The online MSN program at Ohio University is designed for practicing RNs who want to advance their expertise in the nursing field. Students in the Family Nurse Practitioner concentration take courses such as Primary Care of Adults and Primary Care Practice.
For more information about the online MSN degree program, MSN degree benefits, and additional concentrations for MSN nursing careers, visit Ohio University’s website.
Nursing Abroad: Becoming an International Nurse Scrubs Mag
Nursing Abroad: Seven Reasons to Take The Plunge Work the World
Global Health Nursing Fellowship Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children
Global Health Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
A Guide to Nursing Jobs Abroad GoAbroad.com