The global demand for nurses has never abated. And, with this Covid-19 pandemic that we are facing, the demand for nurses abroad has increased exponentially. This post will walk you through the steps to becoming a well-rounded and successful volunteer nurse abroad. 

As a trained nurse, you have likely been bombarded with a variety of opportunities; paid and pro bono. Paid opportunities like regular jobs usually attract most trained nurses due to the financial accruement expected. Volunteer opportunities lack the financial benefit. However, they offer trained nurses the opportunity to enrich their lives while engaging their services free and willingly in places and situations that are usually life-changing.

As a volunteer nurse abroad, you will get the opportunity to work with a wide variety of patients as well as colleagues. You will also get the chance to hone your survival and adaptation skills and instincts by working in situations that are plagued with supply shortages, lack of equipment, and few professionals. This will enable you as a volunteer nurse abroad to appreciate the need for and availability of proper healthcare in underserved settings.

The opportunities you will get to be a volunteer nurse abroad will range within either a short period of a few weeks or a long period that will cover many months or even years. You will get exposed to a wide spectrum of areas in either rural clinics or hospitals as per the existing areas of placement or your specialization. However, you should be open-minded because as most volunteer nurses abroad find out later, your services will be needed in more than one area. So, be prepared to put on as many hats as possible and approach any task at hand with an open heart and you’ll get a wonderful experience as a volunteer nurse abroad.

Reasons To Be A Volunteer Nurse Abroad

Volunteering abroad as a nurse has its benefits. Here are a few reasons why you should be a volunteer nurse abroad:

1. See healthcare in a different light

As a volunteer nurse abroad, you will be able to see how other countries deal with healthcare provision. This, in return, will enable you to compare the type of care you left back home with what you encounter as a volunteer. The comparison will let you see just how underappreciated your healthcare is and how much people in underdeveloped countries need volunteers such as you. As a result, you will be grateful for what you have and empathetic to the plights of other individuals. This is a major step in personal development.

2. Boost your resume

Volunteering abroad as a nurse will boost your resume immensely. This literally spells employability and experience and when a potential employer is considering your application, the duration you spent as a volunteer nurse abroad will ensure you stand out from the crowd. The three virtues they’ll immediately associate with your person are determination, resilience, and empathy.

According to a study conducted in 2013 by Di Pietro, graduates who had a chance to study abroad are 24% more likely to be employed 3 years after they have graduated as compared to those that didn’t. This is a point you should keep in mind if you have any qualms about volunteering abroad as a nurse.

John Hansen Brevetti also advocated for abroad volunteering by stating that internships undertaken abroad tend to be outstanding on your resume. The internship will act as a badge that shows you are durable, resourceful, and unbiased. Your internship will indicate that you’ve encountered things alien to the US. It will show your potential employer that you are a problem solver and you have tackled ethics that people back home take for granted. It will make you a better human and an exemplary clinician. 

If you’d like to undertake your internship abroad, you should consider either the nursing or pre-nursing internship programs that are provided by International Medical Aid. These programs are tailored to provide you with a deeper understanding of the healthcare field.

3. Make new friends and grow your list of contacts

As a volunteer nurse abroad, you will also get to meet a diverse array of people from the colleagues you will work with and the patients you’ll take care of. This will ensure that you form a bond with the people, especially those you’ll work with. As a result of going through the same experience, bonds between volunteers and their colleagues tend to be special. These bonds also tend to transform into lifelong friendships as well as become a source of memories.

Apart from making friends, you’ll also get to grow your list of contacts with priceless international ones. These international contacts will range from your fellow volunteers to the directors of facilities abroad where you’ll be working as a volunteer nurse.

4. Travel the world and join a much bigger community

The world has been reduced to a village by cheaper international travel rates and technology. Staying put in one location is an outdated concept. People now consider themselves as citizens of the world rather than divide themselves according to national borders. If you become a volunteer nurse abroad, you’ll get the opportunity to travel internationally and become a world citizen. You will realize that racial and ethnic prejudices are for small-minded people. You’ll get to see how different people from all corners of the world have dedicated their entire lives to making this planet a safer and better haven for all of humankind.

5. Personal growth

Volunteering abroad as a nurse will enable you to learn and grow quickly. If you happen to volunteer in a setting with a shortage of resources, you’ll learn to adapt and be resilient under any circumstances. You will also get survival tactics from your colleagues who have always worked in dire environments. As a result, your confidence will improve considerably through the challenges you’ll encounter and overcome.

You’ll also get the opportunity to learn a foreign language and improve your communication skills from working with colleagues and patients from different backgrounds. This will give you a competitive edge and a wonderful, fulfilling experience.

If your interest is piqued and you wish to be a volunteer nurse abroad, you will find many spectacular programs tailored to help you achieve this end. It is up to you to choose a program that best suits your needs.
Below we have listed several steps that will help you get started as a volunteer nurse abroad:

Getting Started As A Volunteer Nurse Abroad

Step 1: Make Up Your Mind

Volunteering as a nurse abroad isn’t a light task. It may sound thrilling but it also comes with its own share of difficulties. For instance, you have to come to terms with the fact that this isn’t a paying job. Some organizations may provide accommodation as well as a few necessities but the rest are up to you.

You also have to understand that as a volunteer nurse abroad, you get to work mostly in underdeveloped areas with such diverse conditions as clean water shortages, extreme hot or cold climatic conditions, ethnic clashes, diseases such as malaria and cholera, and so on. If you want to successfully complete the duration of your volunteer abroad placement, you have to be mentally and physically prepared to persevere through these extreme conditions. 
If you have made up your mind to pursue this life-changing experience, it’s time for you to take the next step.

Step 2: Do Thorough Research On The Available Program For Volunteer Nurses Abroad

There is a multitude of programs for volunteer nurses abroad available out there. These programs are all unique in their own way. You will learn that each program requires volunteers with certain credentials and stipulated levels of experience. 

Programs also tend to differ according to how and where they place their volunteers. Some programs place their volunteers in a specified healthcare area whereas others take a general approach and require you to be flexible and multi dexterous. You will get a fulfilling experience only if you choose a program that fits your area of expertise and provides an experience that matches your interest.

The programs you will encounter are all tailored to delegate tasks that won’t outweigh your skills or clash with your area of expertise as a volunteer nurse abroad. In our journey as a nurse with a volunteer program, you will encounter such open positions for volunteer nurses abroad as newly qualified nurses, nurses with a professional background, assistants to professional nurses, and so on. You should ensure that the position allocated to you doesn’t exceed your level of skill and experience otherwise, you may be overwhelmed.

It is also advisable for you as a volunteer nurse abroad to avoid working in areas that are beyond or diverse from your area of practice. You shouldn’t be blinded by the plight of patients and resolve to provide a level of care or treatment that is beyond you. With this in mind, don’t hesitate to provide a helping hand in such repetitive tasks as bathing patients, bandaging them afresh, or even checking vital signs. These tasks make a big difference in the operational structure of most understaffed facilities abroad.

Step 3: Compile Your Documents and Complete Your Application

After selecting a suitable program, you now need to sort out your documents to ensure you have everything you may need and that all your documents and resume are up to date. For instance, as a student that wishes to become a volunteer nurse abroad you will require official or unoffical transcripts from your learning institution and if you are a certified assistant or licensed nurse, you should have copies of your state board of nursing credentials at hand.

You may also need vaccination copies or a qualified physician’s health clearance depending on your program of choice. You should seek clarification from the coordinator of your program to ensure that you are fully aware of the necessities required. This is to ensure that you plan and submit within the required period.

As a volunteer nurse abroad, you are also advised to have copies of your travel insurance and passport photo page on you at all times since you are traveling overseas to foreign parts with diverse laws and regulations. If your US insurer doesn’t cover your travel insurance or if the program’s fee doesn’t cover it, you are advised to purchase coverage that will cover the duration you will spend abroad.

After you have sorted out your documentation, forward an application to your program of choice.

Step 4: Check Visa Requirements

Whether or not you require a visa depends on the duration you intend to spend as a volunteer nurse abroad. Visa Requirements can be acquired by all citizens of the US from the State Department’s website. Some visas can also be acquired at the airport in the country of your destination. Other visas require you to apply in the US before you embark on your journey abroad.

Step 5: Get Vaccinated As Required

If we have learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the importance of taking care of one’s health. As a volunteer nurse abroad, you’ll need to be in optimum health for you to provide proper healthcare to others. You should, therefore, ensure that you have been vaccinated thoroughly as the program recommends for your destination. You should also seek advice from your healthcare provider about where you are going to volunteer, the scope of activities you’ll engage in, and what he recommends for you to stay healthy. If you have no access to a healthcare provider, you can make use of the information and recommendation availed for US citizens by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention concerning travel health. The CDC’S site is loaded with information that will help you identify recommendations that are specific for your destination e.g. health alerts and vaccinations; and the location of various health departments within the locality of your destination or health clinics that deal with travel care.

Step 6: Polish Your Communication Skills

Your language skills will determine how well you interact and understand your patients wherever you are volunteering. You don’t need to be fluent. However, if you can manage a few common phrases such as salutations, then you will have a much easier time with the locals. Your program may require minimum proficiency but, for your own sake and comfort, learn a few basic phrases and they’ll take you a long way.


There is a myriad of learning tools including apps that can help you acquire basic language skills, they include:


I. Busuu– This app helps you hone your writing, reading, speaking, and listening skills by including exercises that are corrected by a variety of native speakers as well as fellow learners of the same language.

II. Duolingo– This app will help you to learn grammar and vocabulary from another language in an interactive way.

III. Memrise– This is the best way to learn foreign vocabulary via repetition

Step 7: Prepare for Your Trip

You will need a few essentials to make sure your stay is easier. You should do research ahead of time to find out the climatic condition of your destination and the prevailing cultural norms. Prior research will ensure that your clothes fit the climate and they don’t offend the locals where you are volunteering.

Apart from personal attire and necessities, you should also ask the coordinator of your program whether they provide medical supplies or if you need to carry your own. If you need to carry your own, you will be safer with a first aid kit, small if possible. You will have peace of mind knowing you are traveling into an unfamiliar territory properly prepared to deal with any arising medical emergency. Your kit should have pain relievers for emergencies and OTC medicine just in case you contract gastrointestinal infections. 

Once you have your bags packed, there is nothing left but for you to get out there and make a difference. It doesn’t matter where you will volunteer, what matters is you’ll touch and transform lives and in return, your life will never be the same again. 

Go make a difference!