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Working abroad can be a wonderful experience for healthcare professionals. You can immerse yourself in a new culture while continuing your passion of practicing medicine. Here is some information to consider before deciding to work abroad in the medical field.


Most doctors go into medicine to help others. Whether you choose to work abroad in a developing country or a country with more resources, providing a new country with your expertise and tools can be a rewarding feeling.

Healthcare systems vary around the world. Exposing yourself to a new way of practicing medicine can help renew your passion for medicine and helping others. Doctors from the U.S., especially, find that they have an easier time treating patients because of the difference in healthcare system procedures.

Things to Consider

When you’re working abroad as a doctor or other healthcare professional, you must remember that it won’t be a vacation. Most positions open to foreign doctors are in areas with high need, so you will likely be very busy with your work.

Additionally, you will experience a kind of culture shock. There may be different names for surgical instruments and drugs, new processes for interacting with patients, and general differences in cultural norms. If the country you choose is similar to your home country, you will experience less of this.

You may also have difficulty staying in touch with friends and family back home. New technology makes communication easy and affordable, but technological difficulties and time zone differences have been known to present issues.

How to Proceed

If you are planning to work abroad for only a short time, you should consider using an agency. With a locum tenens agency, you will be employed by the agency and usually receive benefits, such as housing, transportation and utilities. The other option is a placement agency.

If you use a placement agency, you will be directly employed by a medical facility. While the placement agency may provide amenities to help you adjust, you will eventually be completely responsible for your own living and transportation. However, the salary will likely be higher with a placement agency than with a locum tenens agency.

Doctors Without Borders is one well-known organization, but there are many others available to fit your specific needs.

If you plan on working abroad for a longer period of time, you should find a job on your own through a consulate or embassy of the country in which you’d like to work. All visas and medical licensing must be done on your own with this method.

The entire process of being employed abroad can take between three and six months, so be sure to start the process well before you wish to begin your adventure.