Nurses are in high demand worldwide, but especially in underserved nations where disease and poverty rates are high, and where the educational system is not strong enough to supply the local demand for nurses. More than 50 percent of healthcare workers abroad are nurses, and in some countries, where the need is great and the access to medical treatment is low, nurses are the frontline providers and first lifeline for patients. A nursing jobs abroad is an opportunity to expand your knowledge, gain an appreciation of new cultures and ideas, enhance your technical experience, and add a new perspective to your nursing skills.
Why Work Abroad
Treating patients whose background, life experiences, and culture are different than your own will expose you to different types of medical treatments and procedures, teach you a new way of approaching problems, and help you communicate better with patients from all walks of life.
Jobs abroad are a great experience for people who want a little adventure in their lives, and like to travel independently. International nursing jobs provide personal and professional growth to every nurse, through providing care, administering medicine and treatments, working on language skills, and supplying education to patients in a foreign country.
New Zealand has a shortage of registered nurses that is projected to increase over the next two decades as nearly half of its current nursing workforce is approaching retirement age. The country is small, about 4.4 million, and employers may recruit workers for nursing jobs in New Zealand under the country’s skilled migrant immigration policy.
Australia, though much larger, diverse, and more populated than New Zealand has a similar shortage, and a medical recruitment process with a fast-track visa certification process for available nursing jobs.
China has a shortage in nurses due to its rapidly expanding economy, and its failure to keep its brightest nursing minds at home. There are about 500,000 nursing students in China, but many switch occupations or emigrate to work because of the lack of competitive nursing opportunities at home. As a result, China has only about one nurse per 1,000 people, still salaries for nursing jobs in China can be low and working conditions often challenging.
The Middle East. The need for skilled nurses is great in the Middle East, the salaries are the highest – and tax free – and the benefits most lucrative, though many people, especially women, can find the social environment challenging, and restrictive. The length of commitment needed for nursing jobs in the Middle East is usually two years minimum. Saudi Arabia has a large expat community – more than 5 million – and most of its healthcare workers live in hospitals or employer provided housing, grouped in gated compounds where the social life mimics that of their home countries. There is plenty of opportunity to travel and explore, but there are restrictions on single women and unmarried couples can’t travel together without being accompanied by family or a married couple.
The United Arab Emirates has shorter nursing contracts available, more in the range of a year, and though many international nurses also live in compounds, the lifestyle is a bit more relaxed and “Westernized” in the UAE. Compact (about the size of Connecticut) and booming, Qatar is also on the relaxed side socially, and it is rapidly expanding and improving its infrastructure and healthcare facilities. For nurses with distinct specialties, especially pediatric and high-risk obstetric patient work, Qatar is a good choice for nursing jobs abroad. Although English is used in hospitals and translators are available, some knowledge of Arabic is helpful.
Nursing Jobs Abroad
Once you’ve graduated nursing school, you must take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX–RN) in order to practice as a RN in the U.S. or Canada. Other countries also have similar requirements for nursing school graduates. To fulfill an international nursing job, you will probably also have to pass an additional licensing exam in order to practice locally in whatever country you have chosen. Once you have the appropriate licensing figured out, nursing jobs abroad are plentiful and varied; but often fall into one of the following categories.
Hospitals & Research Centers. Many countries are constructing hospitals that double as research centers or specialty clinics devoted to certain diseases, conditions, or therapies. It’s here that nurses with specialties (surgical, obstetrics, physical therapy, etc.) can find the best paying nursing jobs abroad with the most benefits. International nursing jobs in hospitals or research centers vary widely, but opportunities are most prevalent in Western Europe, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.
Travel Nursing. Travel nurses work as temporary fill-ins for people on sick or maternity leave, or help out during local emergencies or nursing staff shortages. Since travel nurses are often hired for critical needs, a travel nurse can negotiate benefits, such as housing, subsidized meals and living expenses, and are guarantee a certain number of hours. Salaries for travel nursing jobs abroad are often significantly more than the average. International nursing jobs are most commonly positions for specialty nurses, which are usually in higher demand.
International nursing jobs may include work with a variety of patient populations, from low-income clinics to state of the art hospital facilities, and caring for children and young people to adults and elderly.
Salary & Affordability
The best and most lucrative nursing jobs abroad go to those with the most education and experience (particularly previous international experience, professional or volunteer), and those who are fluent in the local language. In many cases, perks and benefits greatly enhance the value of your salary package for an international nursing job.
Except in a few highly specialized fields, working in nursing abroad is not an exceptionally high-paid profession. Salaries vary widely depending on the country, location (rural, major city, mid-sized city), and need, but in most places, the starting salary for a nursing job will range from $27,000 to $32,000 a year. In some places, such as in Europe, a liberal and generous vacation policy sweetens most nursing job opportunities. In the Middle East, starting salaries for nursing jobs are more in the $36,000 to $42,000 range.
A skilled nurse is always in demand, and working in nursing abroad can increase your competitiveness and desirability in almost any field of nursing. International nursing jobs give nurses experience working in locations where techniques, medical challenges, diseases, and methods of treatment are different than what they learned in school. Sometimes international nurses will even have the chance to work with medical treatments still in the experimental stage. Working in nursing abroad will teach you new ways of communicating cross-culturally, as well as alternative cultural approaches to the treatment of health issues.