What’s your travel style? Being that my first truly international travel experience was to a village in Kenya, I lean toward the authentic and rustic. Give me dirt roads, wild animals, and a quiet, starry night. Rather than dine in Rome, I prefer to slurp spaghetti on the Italian countryside. I choose camel riding in India over the luxury of Las Vegas. If, like me, your travel style tends to be down to earth, a cultural experience as opposed to luxury seeking, medical volunteering may be the perfect way for you to see the world.
Cliche as it may sound, as nurse practitioners we have a skill set that transcends cultures and political boarders. This gives us the unique opportunity to take our passion for medicine and spirit of volunteerism abroad. Wherever your interests lie, whether they be disaster relief in Haiti or reaching out to medically underserved children in Ethiopia, there’s likely an organization that can facilitate your quest to volunteer overseas.
One major setback to volunteering, however is cost. International flights, lodging and living expenses add up quickly making it unfeasible for many nurse practitioners to take advantage of these opportunities. Thankfully, some organizations receive outside funding helping to mitigate the cost of travel for volunteers themselves. If you are a nurse practitioner looking to serve in a medical role, check out these volunteer organizations offering sponsored volunteer opportunities for NPs.
1. Doctors Without Boarders (Medecins Sans Frontieres)
Doctors Without Boarders is a highly regarded organization serving individuals in medical need across the globe. Present in 60 countries, Doctors Without Boarders needs not only physicians but nurses and nurse practitioners as well. Given that many countries don’t recognize the NP role along with the most common medical needs of underserved countries, nurse practitioners will likely need to adapt their role on site. Doctors Without Boarders says nursing volunteers have less direct patient contact in the field than physicians working primarily on vaccination campaigns, oversight of hygiene measures, data collection, and coordinating with local authorities.
Volunteering with Doctors Without Boarders is not a light commitment. The organization asks for a minimum of nine to twelve months availability. In exchange, Doctors Without Boarders pays volunteers just over $1,500 each month as well as covers the cost of training, travel, insurance, and assistance accommodating student loan payments.
2. International Medical Corps
International Medical Corps offers both international employment and volunteer opportunities for healthcare providers. Qualified nurse practitioners interested in volunteering may enroll in the organization’s emergency response team. This selective medical team is called on in the case of natural disasters around the globe with the goal of being on scene within 48 hours of disaster striking. International experience, public health experience, and other qualifications are required by many volunteer and employment opportunities through the International Medical Corps.
3. Peace Corps Global Health Service Partnership
One of the largest and most recognized volunteer organizations in the world, the Peace Corps has a presence in 76 countries and needs nurses to help meet healthcare needs in these locations. The organization’s Global Health Service Partnership places volunteers across the globe to work on health projects such as malaria prevention, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, nutrition and more. Volunteers with the Peace Corps receive a monthly living stipend, paid travel expenses, and housing.
Sponsored volunteer opportunities typically require longer commitments and have more stringent qualifications than those that are self-funded. But, this lengthy commitment allows volunteers to become ingrained in the community and make a true impact on the health of others in medical need. If travel is your passion, and a life of rustic living conditions and practicing amidst unexpected circumstances excites you, consider springing for a sponsored nurse practitioner volunteer opportunity.
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