Working in a Hospital Environment Abroad vs. Domestically

January 17, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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In any medical career, it’s key to be able to work in any setting and with any patient population that comes your way.  Hospitals around the world, and even within your home country, are likely to serve many different populations, distinct in race, age, gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic class.  One of the best ways to gain this type of experience and cultural knowledge is to work abroad in a hospital.  You’ll gain insight and advantage over those who stay home!

When you work in a hospital abroad, you learn how to deal with people of many cultures.  Even within a domestic hospital setting, you are likely to encounter many ethnicities and nationalities.  Learning how to care for patients who have a different perspective on medicine and health care than you do provides insight that you would not get by working with patients who are like you.  You’ll learn how to negotiate language and cultural barriers, break down stereotypes that you didn’t know you had, and learn how to be a more compassionate and open-minded medical professional.  Working in a hospital abroad exposes you to a global perspective that you are unlikely to encounter domestically, unless you are working at a diverse, urban domestic hospital.

Students observing surgery in the orthopaedics department at Maharaj Hospital Domestically, doctors in the US typically adhere to the same standards and medical practices.  Because medical school training in the United States is regulated and uniform, there is little difference in practice regardless of where in the country you work.  Abroad, you will learn to work with doctors who are trained using different methods and practices, doctors who look at health care from a different perspective, doctors who have access to limited or alternate resources than we do in the US.  Working with doctors abroad will allow you to learn about medical practices that will compliment what you have learned about medicine in the US.  You’ll experience a different bedside manner than is practiced domestically.

Working abroad is often a humanitarian experience.  In the US and other western countries, patients have access to the latest medical technologies and treatments.  When you work in a hospital domestically, there is no limit to the medical care advances available to patients; unless prohibited by insurance coverage, doctors are urged to use the latest medical findings to care for, treat and cure their patients.  Abroad, however, will test your medical ingenuity and problem-solving skills.  With limited resources and equipment, smaller staffing, and bare-bones buildings, working abroad will open your eyes to the privileges of patients and doctors in US hospitals. A simple injury in the US, such as a broken arm, can be life-threatening abroad if your hospital lacks the proper equipment and antibiotics for treatment.  Acknowledging your privilege as a US medical professional is a profound experience that will take your practice and bedside manner to a higher, more compassionate level.

There are innumerable opportunities to work in a hospital abroad.  If you want to experience the world and its citizens, then consider an internship, volunteer, or work experience in a hospital abroad. — Post by Madelaine Kingsbury.