If you become a nurse, you’ll be able to work in a variety of work situations. Nurses can work in hospitals (obviously), but also in schools, military bases, or outpatient care facilities. You could also go abroad. If you want to be an international nurse, you have to make a decision: Do you want to be a nurse in a country where you’ll be able to live more or less comfortably, or do you want to go somewhere where your skills are desperately needed?
Here are 10 possible locations for a nurse abroad, five in the industrialized world and five that desperately need nurses. Keep in mind that each of these countries has different policies regarding work visas, as well as licensing issues related to working as a nurse.
Haiti is perhaps the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Since its independence in 1804, it’s been comparatively isolated from the United States and European colonial powers. That isolation has contributed to long-standing impoverishment and political instability, neither of which is conducive to good healthcare infrastructure. The country still has not fully recovered from the effects of the 2010 earthquake, and Haiti presents a true challenge and opportunity to a nurse who wants to go abroad.
Thirty-five years of 20th century dictatorship stymied Paraguay’s development of a viable higher education system. Since the 1990s, Paraguay has adopted a more open political system, but it still doesn’t have the population of educated healthcare professionals necessary to serve its population of almost seven million.
Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America, and political instability throughout the 20th century has meant that the necessary infrastructure to supply quality healthcare hasn’t materialized.
Ethiopia is one of the world’s oldest nation states and has a nurse-population ratio of 0.252 nurses per 1,000 people, according to the World Health Organization. It’s also one of the least connected countries in the world, with a low rate of cellphone adoption and internet use, much of which could be a challenge for healthcare personnel who are used to sending information with the speed of a click
These last five countries are drawn from this list of countries in need of nurses. These are places where a nurse can go to effect significant change, and that’s not just because of health or sanitation issues. Internationally, nurse migration tends to mean that nurses from less-developed countries make their way to more developed ones, pursuing better jobs. The Dominican Republic, for example, has only 1.334 nurses per 1,000 people. That’s the result of a lot of variables, but in part it has to do with strong incentives for skilled Dominican residents to move to the United States.
Japan’s population is among the oldest in the world, with 27.87 percent of the people who live there over 65. The younger generation is dwarfed by an older, retired cohort whose demand for healthcare will probably be considerable, given that Japan also has one of the longest life expectancies in the world. The country’s demographic crisis means that it will, in all likelihood, have to import younger workers from abroad to keep everything functioning.
If you’re lucky enough to get an EU visa, you’ll be able to work in an array of countries. Nations like France and Germany might be the obvious options, but you’ll also have access to smaller places like Cyprus, Latvia, and Malta. If you want to be an international traveler on a single visa, try to get into the EU.
Like the U.K. and Canada, Australia is accessible for American nurses because of a shared language. Getting a job there will give you access to one of the largest countries on Earth, one that comprises rainforests, deserts, sandy beaches, and dry wastelands. Traveling to Australia is a journey in and of itself, but the country that is also a continent offers plenty of travel within it when you get there.
Like Canada, the U.K. shares a language with the U.S., but not a healthcare system. If you can manage to get a visa to work in the U.K., you’ll likely find yourself part of the National Healthcare System, one of the largest healthcare providers in the industrialized world and one so important to Britain that there was a tribute to the NHS at the 2012 Olympics.
Canada is probably the most familiar option for an American nurse who wants to work abroad, but don’t assume that because of geographical proximity Canada is just like the United States. While much of the culture and language will be the same, Canada’s healthcare system is administered and run differently than the U.S.’s, and patient expectations about how healthcare works are very different.