For students and jobseekers that want to see the world, studying or taking a job overseas can be an incredible opportunity. But jobs in other countries can be difficult to find, and there are some potential pitfalls of which you should be aware. Research and careful planning is key to ensure that the experience is both enjoyable and fruitful.
One of the best methods to find out more information about international opportunities is through online research, according to Jennifer Anne Hohman, assistant director of professional advocacy at the American Academy of Physician Assistants. Not only should you research what opportunities exist, but also the legalities of medical practice in other countries. One of the first pieces of information to look up is whether your license is recognized in the country where you plan to practice.
Kathy Dexter, an assistant professor at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Ga., said that some clinicians secure jobs with U.S.-based organizations that have divisions overseas, specifically with corporations that hire medical staff to treat their employees. The U.S. State Department and other government organizations also hire American clinicians for this purpose. Another option is looking for employment opportunities through medical placement companies, Hohman suggested.
For students who want to travel, many schools offer options for international studies. “Approximately half of the 154 accredited PA programs in the United States offer an elective international clinical rotation,” said Donald M. Pedersen, PhD, PA-C, professor and chief of the division of physician assistant studies at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City. These rotations must meet specific standards, and many PA programs discourage medical tourism. Students should keep in mind that these opportunities often come with a high price tag.
Once you have decided where you will be travelling and when you plan to leave, it is important to create a checklist to ensure you are prepared. Make sure you have the proper paperwork, including passports and visas, as well as recommended immunizations. Websites of the American Academy of Physicians Assistants, the Association of Physician Assistants and the Global Health Education Consortium have international travel resources available for clinicians and students.
Foremost, clinicians should be aware of potential safety issues and travel advisories. The Bureau of Consular Affairs is a great resource for providing travel warnings and information sheets for Americans who are leaving the country. Be certain to contact the local medical authorities before you go, not after, Hohman said.
The insights that you gain when working or studying overseas can make you a better clinician when you return home, Pedersen said. If planned correctly international experiences can be a “life-changing or career-changing adventure for those involved,” he added.
Kelly Bilodeau is a freelance medical writer.