Are There Opportunities For Nursing Abroad?

When we think about the nursing profession, those  of us in the community usually only think about the occupation in terms of the United States. Nurses usually acquire a well-respected U.S. education and then go on to work or do clinical rotations in U.S. healthcare facilities to supplement their education.

Rarely do we think about if there is a demand  for our skills abroad. We usually tend to stick with what we  know in the United States. For better or for worse. However, is there a need for U.S. nurses in different parts of the world? You might be surprised by the answer.

International Labor Shortage

According to the New York Times, the medical labor shortage is happening on a worldwide scale. The countries that seem to be affected  the most by the shortage are poorer countries in South America, Asia, and Africa.

These areas of the world deal with many factors that affect this labor shortage.The biggest one is probably lack of financial investment from the private and public sector into the development of healthcare facilities, school programs, and academic scholarships for medical professions.

Other reasons include population growth, inadequate healthcare facilities and professionals, and lack of medical supplies.  More wealthy countries are dealing with very similar issues. Countries in Western Europe such as the Netherlands, Norway, England, and France are also dealing a nursing labor shortage.

Every year, these countries import nurses from foriegn countries (granting them work visas) in order to fill these shortages. Although more and more people are becoming registered nurses around the world, the supply is not growing as fast the demand.

According to the New York Times, wealthier countries import hundreds to thousands of a nurses a year from other countries to fill these shortages. The countries include the United States, United Kingdom, France, The Netherlands, Australia, and many more.

Where Do These Nurses Come From?

These nurses actually come from all over the world. Many of them are from poorer countries. The U.S. imports a lot of nurses from East Asia and Africa and supply them with work visas. The Philippines is biggest exporter of nurses. This is because of high unemployment and lack of jobs.

However, many countries are looking for nurses who were trained and have worked in the United States. We have some of the most respected universities and hospitals in the world and hence the demand for experienced US nurses abroad is very high.

The Benefits Of Working Abroad

1). Broaden Your Skill  Set Working somewhere else that is operating with a labor shortage allows you to take on more responsibilities. This will allow you to learn more skills that you can apply to a nursing job at another location.

2). Shows You Can Work With A Diverse Crowd Of People Nothing shows willingness to dive into a different work setting than working abroad. Life overseas shows you can become comfortable in uncomfortable situations. This is a great virtue to have in the workplace when things get crazy or your settings suddenly change.

3). Dealing With High Patient Load Since you will most likely be working in a healthcare facility that is understaffed, there is a good chance the patient load will be high. After a while, you will learn how to prioritize and deal with the patients accordingly.

4). New Challenges To Face Nursing abroad will have many new challenges to conquer and many customs to get used to. Things like policies and rules in the hospital, how doctors operate compared to nurses, how nurses interact with the management, etc. There are a lot of aspects to consider.

There is also a lot to learn outside the job. Getting use to the language, dealing with a language barrier, dealing with transportation and getting around town, plus embracing and understanding a different culture.

5). U.S. Education Is Highly Respected And In High Demand Abroad  Despite what you may think about your college education, the United States has some of the most highly regarded universities in the world. Most Americans opt to work domestically. It makes sense since there are plenty of lucrative nursing professions here.

However, there are many countries abroad that seek nurses with U.S. educations and U.S. hospital experience. They are willing to grant work visas quickly to these nurses in order to entice them to come and stay abroad.

Do not think that working in the U.S. carries no weight. It does and can help you a lot nursing abroad.

6). Benefits Could Be Better In Another Country  Healthcare facilities in Western Europe and Asia are known for giving 6 to 8 weeks of paid vacation to their employees every year.

Hospitals in the Netherlands and England grant their nurses 8 weeks of annual paid vacation. Wow. If traveling is priority then definitely look into these opportunities.

Arab countries seem to pay the most. Outside of western countries, Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest importer of foreign nurses in the world. They offer very lucrative compensation packages.

You may need to figure out what to prioritize when making these decisions. Whether it is travel, pay, or experience; you have options.

How Get A Nursing Job Abroad?

You need to ask yourself these three important questions. What is important to you? What parts of your life do you want to prioritize? What do you want out of your abroad experience?

You need to figure out what you want so you can make the most of this experience. If your experience and choices made are not in line with the things you want then there is a good chance you will end up unhappy.

You will need to put in a good amount of time into researching programs that might give you what you want out of your time abroad.

Here are some things I would consider before picking a program or nursing job abroad.

1). Language Spoken Chose a job where English the main language spoken at the healthcare facility. You need to be able to effectively communicate with your co-workers and patients. A language barrier makes that much more difficult.

You could also go work somewhere that operates with English as the primary language. This could be the case with a lot employers in Europe and Asia. I would still recommend you attempt to learn the native language and medical terminology to get the most out of the experience.

2). Use Staffing Agencies  Similar to travel nursing, there is whole industry dedicated to finding nursing jobs abroad for nurses. These agencies help streamline the process and help find opportunities that are aligned with your goals and priorities. These guys are great when they do their jobs.

They also help with other things. These things include helping you get the right documentation to work abroad, finding reasonably priced housing, dealing with your bank and accessing funds, and anything else related to going overseas. I would still recommend you do your research. But an informative resource always helps.

3). Building Experience You want to go somewhere that will build your experience and allow you to accelerate your career. Even if your first priority is to travel and enjoy the native culture, remember you to put some emphasis on moving your career forward.

See also Nursing brain


There is a lot of information to digest in this article but I tried to make it as concise as possible. Just remember to chose an opportunity that aligns with your goals and do your homework. Do as much research as possible so when the right opportunity comes along you will be ready to pursue it.

Nursing opportunities abroad are some of the  most underutilized opportunities by U.S. nurses. In a lot of cases, there is more money to be made and greater experiences to be had abroad. Other countries need your help and you can potentially accelerate your career at the same time. Choose the opportunity that works for you.

Good Luck!