Overseas Medical Programs from a Parent’s Point of View

May 14, 2012

Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.

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When your child expresses an interest in medicine it is a proud moment for any parent, but when they then go on to say that they want to get some experience working abroad, the worrying begins. Gap year activities have not had a very good press in recent years, with students being attacked and killed by opportunistic muggers or because they are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. When it comes to a medical placement overseas, these fears should be considerably less, as students in this setting are usually looked after far more closely than in, for example, a language school or if they are just backpacking.

There are several reasons for this being the case. Firstly, the students who take part in overseas placements are not just any old students; they are making a difference wherever they end up as they will be working alongside the professionals in the field and are therefore an extremely precious commodity. They have also gone through quite a rigorous weeding out process so that only the most dedicated get the chance to take part. This means that, by and large, your son or daughter will be with like-minded and very dedicated people. This is not to say of course that they won’t have a good time – sightseeing will definitely be on the agenda! – but they will be working long hours and will be taken to and from their assignments. They will not be away for days and weeks unsupervised and so there is no need to worry that they will be unaccounted for at any time.

Students enjoying Songkran festival in Thailand 

Depending on the company providing the medical experience abroad, your child will probably be working with qualified professionals who have taken time out of their working life to volunteer in an area needing extra help and so not only will they learn a lot about their chosen career path but they will also be with people who are dedicated to a very worthwhile cause. The company you choose will have a very definite policy on the behaviour it expects from its students and in return will provide a very carefully thought out system of transport and living arrangements which should satisfy the most nervous parent.

If you add to this the fact that nowadays communication technology is so good that you could literally see your child face to face on a very regular basis through the magic of Skype and other systems, then there is very little to worry anyone when their child does a medical placement overseas. Having children and watching them grow up is a generally very scary business, but letting them spread their wings is an excellent way of making them into pretty amazing people – letting them spread their wings in the service of someone else, even if it is far away is a very unselfish thing to do and it will make the bond between you even stronger. Working in medicine is a hard and long road with incredible rewards at the end of it. Letting your student son or daughter see it at its hardest right at the beginning of their career is a very worthwhile exercise well worth the inevitable – though needless – parental worry.