February 8, 2012
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
For nurses, doctors and other medical professional, volunteering abroad can bring immense personal satisfaction, especially when the work takes you to an area of the globe where people are less fortunate, and are in much need of quality healthcare. There are several other benefits to working abroad, such as widening personal experiences, bolstering a CV, making new friends, facing fresh challenges, helping to develop new skills, and broadening cultural awareness. While working overseas brings with it many rewards and benefits, there are also many challenges, and it is essential any medical professional seeking a work placement overseas is fully prepared before they set off, both physically and mentally.
Making sure you’ve had relevant inoculations against common tropical and communal diseases is essential, as falling ill whilst abroad prevents a medical professional from working, and you may find yourself in the unfortunate situation of requiring treatment from the very people you are meant to be assisting. It is also important to prepare for the changes in diet and climate. Many people unused to hot, tropical locations find the heat overbearing, while local foods may result in upset stomachs. These problems should only be temporary, and by taking precautions, such as making sure you have stomach medications and slowly accustoming yourself to the conditions over the first few days, should help alleviate symptoms.
Preparing mentally is also essential for anybody wanting to work overseas. High levels of poverty and the conditions in which some people in developing nations have to live, often cause distress to those used to a more affluent societies. This culture shock can often be overbearing, leading to symptoms of homesickness, guilt and stress. Solace should be taken in that you are helping to improve the lives of people in that part of the world by the work you are doing.
Other challenging aspects faced by doctors and nurses working abroad is coming to terms with the limited access to healthcare of some locations. In places such as the UK, with its comprehensive free health service, it is often taken for granted that treatment and care is available to everyone. Having to refuse somebody treatment because they can’t pay is not something a UK practitioner may have had to deal with, and may cause anxiety and stress when faced with the position abroad, but it is something overseas health professionals have to face every day because of limited funds and costs of treatments.
Most doctors, nurses and medical professionals who have worked abroad, have found it a rewarding experience that has helped improve their own development as a professional. Being aware of other cultures and different methods of delivering healthcare also helps nurses, doctors and other medical professionals improve healthcare at home, bringing new skill-sets and methods learned from abroad. As modern hospitals are full of people from all types of backgrounds and cultures, having had experience of other ways of life helps improve communication between medical professionals and patients in our increasingly diverse healthcare system.