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What You Should Know If You Want To Practice Medicine Abroad

Ready to take that shiny new medical degree to the far corners of the world? Here's what you need to know if you want to practice medicine abroad.

Sep 6, 2023
  • Education
  • Study Abroad
  • Student Tips
  • Visa
What You Should Know If You Want To Practice Medicine Abroad

You've heard about study abroad programs, and even work abroad programs, but what about physician abroad programs? They're not all volunteer programs!

You've studied and worked hard, and now it's almost time for you to graduate with that medical degree. Have a bit of cabin fever? Want to spread your wings a bit? Ready to take that shiny new medical degree of your to the far corners of the world?

Go for it! Provided your degree is in good standing and you've passed all your required exams, all you need is a little push in the right direction to get that international medical experience you want.

Here it is:

1. Check the requirements of your target destination

Going abroad to work as a doctor isn't a vacation. In fact, it's probably harder than starting out in your home country. Why? Cultural challenges, language issues, new healthcare systems... oh, and everything that comes with being in a completely new place and knowing nobody.

You want your transition to feel as seamless as possible. That's why it's even more important that you understand exactly what you need to do before you get where you going.

Before you even figure out how you are going to get a job, residency, or internship (see #2), you'll need to get all your ducks in a row, such as your medical license, resume, passport, visa photos, references, physical exam, and background check.

How long does it take to pull all this stuff together? As little as three months, and up to six. Get quacking!

2. Start with a residency or an internship

Here's our best advice: as you begin the matching process, make your intentions clear. Work with your residency and placement office to secure a residency or internship in the field of your choice from home, with experts in the field.

It's possible that they have never worked with a graduate like you before. Not a problem. Contact a reputable, accredited medical school in the country of your choice and ask them for help. Work with the folks on your home campus, and together you will figure it out.

Apply to programs that match your interests and needs -- and which give you some leverage for employment after!

Keep in mind that your residency could last anywhere from six months to several years.

3. Talk to local doctors before you go

Contact physicians at teaching hospitals or clinics where you want to be. Ideally, you will talk to other international doctors who took the path you are now on.

How do you find them? The placement office, for starters. Ask around. Talk to your professors, tell them your plans, and see who they know and where they are in the world.

This one's hard, but worth the time. It takes work. You're used to that, right?

4. Know it won't be easy -- and embrace it!

This is what you signed on for, right? There'll be major cultural differences, probably some language barriers, and likely some different approaches to treatments, depending on where you go.

Small things might differ, too, like who has control of your schedule. This can make a big impact on you. Not only do you need to practice medicine, you need to learn how to ask for things you need, like schedule changes. Believe it or not, it's different, everywhere you go.

Plan for as much as you can and embrace the stuff that falls through the cracks. You won't be able to prepare for everything.

Use this time as an opportunity to learn even more than you thought possible!