Make a Healthy Difference by Volunteering Abroad
Megan Malugani / Monster Contributing Writer
Have you ever considered lending a helping hand abroad? As a healthcare professional, you can make a dramatic difference in the lives of people all over the world by volunteering with an international health organization.
Whether you choose to join a two-week surgical mission or a two-year health education campaign, your experience is likely to be memorable. Here’s a rundown of a few of the many organizations that provide international volunteer opportunities for healthcare professionals.
Doctors Without Borders provides medical relief to victims of disaster, hardship and war throughout the world. Medical volunteers for the organization, which is internationally called Medecins Sans Frontieres, work all over the globe in sometimes dangerous conditions. The organization generally recruits experienced medical personnel with at least two years of professional experience. Volunteers, who must sign up for a minimum of six months, include physicians, general surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nutritionists, epidemiologists, midwives and other health professionals.
Medical volunteers with Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO) work as teachers rather than primary healthcare providers in the countries they visit. HVO volunteers train and educate local healthcare providers in specialty areas, including anesthesia, dentistry, internal medicine, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthopedics, pediatrics and physical therapy. Most HVO programs require volunteers to serve for one month, but there are some sites where volunteers may serve for two weeks. Spouses and families can accompany volunteers on their assignments. Family members without clinical training can work as teachers, administrators or in a variety of other capacities.
Interplast provides free reconstructive surgery for children in developing countries. The organization sponsors 35 surgical trips each year, sending teams of medical volunteers to countries such as Bangladesh, Ecuador, Nepal and Vietnam. Nearly 3,000 children are treated each year by medical teams made up of plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, pediatricians, pediatric urologists, operating room nurses, recovery room nurses and nurse educators. The medical teams typically spend two weeks at each site, providing surgeries for an average of 100 children.