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Nursing Jobs Abroad

The Significant Demand for Nurses Internationally

The female nurse here is part of a significant demand for RNs worldwide.
There is a high demand for nurses worldwide.

In college, I dreamed of having an international career. Several years after my sister ventured off to foreign lands to teach English, I pursued the same route — not as an English teacher but as a nurse. Now it's my sister who is visiting me in a foreign land!

Since the skills and knowledge that U.S.-educated nurses possess are highly regarded internationally, the profession can open doors to a wide array of possibilities for working abroad. The call for nurses is a cry heard from all corners of the globe, from developed nations to the developing world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), "Nurses are the largest category of health workers. Nursing personnel make up over 50 percent of the health workforce in every country of the world. In many countries in the developing world, more than 80 percent of health workers are nurses.” There is a shortage of millions of healthcare workers, and the demand is projected to double in the next generation. The vast majority of nursing schools are in the U.S. and other Western countries, and there will be a significant need for at least 6 million trained nurses abroad to provide healthcare by 2030. The demand is in addition to 28 million currently in the global workforce who fulfill a variety of general and more specialized nursing skills.

Because of a global nursing shortage and a higher demand for nursing services, healthcare organizations face staffing dilemmas reaching crisis levels in certain places. Sigma Theta Tau International, the Honor Society of Nursing, a great resource that offers a job board, reports that "countries around the world are facing critical nursing shortages. From North America to Africa and Europe, communities are challenged with growing health care needs and diminishing numbers of nurses.”

Faced with the spiraling labor shortages, healthcare organizations worldwide are scrambling to recruit nurses to fill positions through enticing advertisements in top nursing journals and on nursing websites.The range of opportunities varies from place to place, so do salaries.

In some countries, benefits may outweigh salary. For example, the seven weeks of annual leave provided by many hospitals in England mean the chance to travel. Benefits may be more important than salary to determine the most desirable job.

Author while working as a nurse in Saudi Arabia.
Caroline visited the old Saud settlement of Diriyah in her free time.

How to Land International Nursing Jobs

The decision to work abroad as a nurse requires intense consideration. While motivation is essential, the more informed you are, the more rewarding your experience will likely be.

Reviewing your reasons for wanting to work abroad will help you narrow your focus and determine which nursing job will meet your objectives. Here are some other considerations when pursuing an overseas nursing job.

• Your Nursing Experience

You will likely receive a job offer based on your previous career history. Later, once you work in an organization, you can expand your nursing skills and knowledge by pursuing another nursing job. A Canadian nurse who has worked in the U.S. and, most recently, in Saudi Arabia was hired to work on a renal transplant unit in a Riyadh hospital. She soon landed a job as a private-duty nurse, providing care to a member of the Saudi royal family at home and even traveling with the family abroad.

• Your Knowledge of the Language

Communication plays a vital role in the provision of healthcare. To effectively care for patients and practice safely, you should acquire a basic knowledge of the language of the country where you will be working.

As native speakers of English, American nurses may restrict their search for jobs in countries where English is the primary language. However, please consider other locations where healthcare organizations may use English as their official language. Certain hospitals in the Middle East require that the staff speak English and all documentation is in English.

Basic knowledge of the country's language is helpful when providing care to non-English speaking patients and interacting with local staff. At least learn conversational expressions and a list of standard medical terms. While the hospital may offer language classes and provide translators to aid communication, you should understand the language before and during your time overseas to fully appreciate the experience personally and professionally.

Also, remember that while many speak English in other countries, terminology may vary. For example, in the U.K., head nurses are referred to as “sisters,” the operating room is called “the theater,” and the emergency room is known as “the accident and casualty department.”

• Using Healthcare Recruiters

Intermediaries, generally known as healthcare recruiters, specialize in recruiting healthcare professionals on behalf of employers. They advertise in nursing journals and on the Web. Recruiters can assist you with all the details, enabling you to work abroad as a nurse and advise you regarding banking, housing, and other vital issues in preparation for your move overseas.

You can also answer advertisements and approach potential employers directly once you have obtained the necessary documentation regarding nursing registration from the country where you would like to work (see Nursing Registration below). While recruiters play a vital part in certain situations, such as finding jobs in developing nations or major cities, remember that many healthcare facilities in smaller locations outside metropolitan areas may only sometimes utilize their services.

Whatever route you take in your job search, doing homework is the best policy.

• Registration

You will need an appropriate work visa for the country where you plan to work. In most cases, the hiring organization obtains visas for nurses. The issuance of such work permits can take days to months, depending on the country, so plan to wait in some cases.

Nurses also must provide proof of licensure to practice their profession.

Where you are planning to work will determine whether you need to register your nursing qualifications before you can look for a job.

To practice nursing in the U.K., for example, an overseas nurse must apply to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) for a British nursing license (see below). Depending on the licensing board, the process may take weeks to several months from the initial request to the final outcome.

In countries where a system of nurse registration still needs to be established, you will need to provide proof of your nursing licensure from the U.S. The code of professional conduct you follow in the state where you are licensed must continue while working overseas.

If you want to work abroad as a nurse, there is no better time than now. You can easily achieve your international career goals with thorough research, an open mind, and a sense of adventure.

For More Information on International Nursing

The World Health Organization describes the massive (out of a total of over a million healthcare workers of all genders) shortage of nurses worldwide in its extensive reports. As the organization notes, "There is a global shortage of health workers, in particular nurses and midwives, who represent more than 50% of the current shortage in health workers."

All Nursing Schools provides excellent additional overviews of the opportunities and practical life of a nurse seeking to work abroad.

Nursing Abroad Network is an information portal for nurses that supplies articles and job listings worldwide for career professionals.

Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing (Sigma) "has more than 100,000 active members and 600 chapters at institutions of higher education and healthcare partners... Members include clinical nurses and administrators, academic nurse educators and researchers, policymakers, entrepreneurs, and others working to fulfill the organization’s vision of connected, empowered nurse leaders transforming global healthcare."

Nurse Journal also has an article on the steps necessary to nurse internationally.

Volunteer as a nurse abroad provides information and programs where you can help others. As a volunteer, you can determine whether the field is appropriate for you as a long-term job or career.

International Registered Nursing Job Boards are available for travel nurses.

Nursing Licensing Boards for Selected Countries

Nursing and Midwifery Council in the U.K.

Australian Nursing Council

Nursing Council of New Zealand

Irish Nursing Board

Related Topics
International Jobs
How to Work as a Caregiver in the UK

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