If mobility is your specialty, it makes sense to move. Cure boredom and get full functionality out of your physical therapy degree by working abroad; satisfy your travel urges, get started on that career, and spread good deeds in the world, all at the same time. As a healthcare professional, working abroad is critical in broadening your understanding of your chosen field and learning how to interact with and treat patients from diverse backgrounds. Notching up a few incredible life experiences, and rehabilitating your resume while you’re at it, doesn’t hurt either. Put on your sneakers and start looking for a physical therapy job abroad!
Why Work Abroad in Physical Therapy
There are almost as many reasons to go international as there are bones in the human body. Whether it’s professional experience or personal development, physical therapy jobs abroad will offer new opportunities that will impact far beyond your resume.
For starters, being a skilled health care professional means there are very few doors that will remain closed to you in the international job market. Beneath the superficial differences of skin color, language, and religion, we humans are all made of the same stuff. We all get sick in the same ways, and because of this, the simple beauty of working in healthcare is that you and your precious trade will be welcomed all over the world. Physical therapy jobs in developing countries will give you the opportunity to make a tangible difference in people's lives by bringing a valued profession to people with limited access to the care they require.
As well as earning major good karma points, working abroad in physical therapy will strengthen your credentials, and also demonstrate your versatility and commitment to your field. Overseas work experience is as much about learning new skills as it is sharing your existing knowledge. Observing health care systems in foreign countries will give you a deeper and more holistic understanding of your profession. You will learn practices and techniques unfamiliar to you, and gain exposure to cases that may not arise as often in your home country, such as amputations from political conflicts or the crippling effects of natural disasters. All of this means that you will be more desirable than chocolate cheesecake when you hit the job market back home.
It is worth noting that, in most cases, physical therapy jobs abroad won’t make you rich. It will reward you in job satisfaction and success though, as you learn to work in a different cultural context, gain new insights on old practices, and forge bonds with international colleagues. Approaching universal problems with localised solutions will be an educationally enriching experience, and broaden your perspectives on physical therapy and humans in general.
Since physical therapy is, well, physical, you have the luxury of being free from language limitations. Healing others with your hands is the ultimate form of body language, and one that you can use anywhere. Wherever there are people, there are physical therapy jobs, so take your pick of locations around the world.
If you feel like going on an adventure to rival Dorothy’s, Oz is a great place to start. Follow your very own yellow brick road to the land down under, and find a physical therapy job in Australia. Not only is Australia like one unending highlight reel of Earth’s most spectacular landscapes, but the people are just as sunny as the Gold Coast itself. The friendly working environment, along with attractive salaries and plentiful physical therapy jobs, make Australia a popular destination for physical therapists to work abroad.
A tiny country with some very big mountains, Nepal’s borders struggle to contain its wild, rugged beauty. Working in Nepal will give physical therapists coveted experience in many areas of specialized treatment. A sparsely equipped country still healing from the earth-shattering quake of 2015, Nepal challenges the resourcefulness and resilience of physical therapists, while giving them the opportunity to work with conditions that are rarely seen in Western countries (such as leprosy). Keeping a work/fun balance won’t be too difficult though, with the foothills of the Himalayan mountain range a playground for outdoors enthusiasts.
If you are as passionate about animals as you are people, Tanzania is full of both wildlife and physical therapy job opportunities. As well as safaris in Serengeti, you can climb to the top of Africa on Mt Kilimanjaro, discover white sand and whale sharks in Zanzibar, or meet and mingle with Maasai in a traditional village. The only danger will be never wanting to leave, and potentially a road accident. The shocking number of injuries sustained in traffic mishaps will keep even the most eager physical therapists busy.
Physical Therapy Jobs Abroad
Physical therapy is a flexible trade, almost as flexible as your patients will be once you’re done with them. While working abroad in physical therapy, you will have the opportunity to gain work experience in various specialties, while learning how to adapt to different work environments and cooperate with diverse individuals. This is a great opportunity to gain specialist skills in a specific area.
Neurological. Patients with spinal cord or brain injuries, who suffer Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease, or are recovering from strokes, are all particularly vulnerable. Dedicating yourself to these patients while working abroad can be hugely beneficial, particularly in countries where sufferers of neurological conditions may not have the adequate support they require. As the brain is so complex, and there is still so little understanding around many neurological afflictions, this can be an exciting and rewarding area to work in abroad. New treatment methodology continues to move forward with ongoing research.
Orthopedic & Musculoskeletal. Physical therapists who work abroad in orthopedics can observe how public health systems cope with different injuries and disorders affecting patients’ musculoskeletal systems. The wide variety of cases and circumstances surrounding them (such as natural disasters), means that physical therapists will get sufficiently diverse experience. In locations with fewer resources, therapists will be exposed to more manual and comprehensive approaches to rehabilitative care.
Pediatric. If you have a soft spot for smaller patients, working in pediatrics will give you all kinds of feels. Through the guileless nature of children, you will see a whole different face of the country you are working in. Resistance to warm fuzzy feelings will be futile. Seeing children suffering can take a high emotional toll though, so be mentally prepared to deal with that kind of stress if you are heading into a low-resource environment.
Benefits & Challenges
Learning doesn’t end with graduation. Even with a degree and a few years work experience, there is always more to know in a field like physical therapy. Working abroad is an excellent way to learn more about your trade, and establish yourself as a more well-rounded therapist. You will be able to connect with global medical communities and tap into extensive knowledge resources. Observing different techniques and practices in action, encountering resourcefulness in tough situations, and gaining in-depth insight into other countries’ healthcare systems will give you a more holistic view of physical therapy.
At times though, the working abroad gig can be tougher than a stiff joint. The level of development in a country is often most visible in its public health system. If working in a developing nation as a physical therapist, you will get a firsthand look at some emotionally stressful situations. Witnessing under-resourced medical centers inundated with patients can come as a shock. You might have to take on duties you are previously unaccustomed to or deal with heavier workloads and longer hours just to keep up. Keeping an open mind, being adaptable, and aiming to learn as much as you can from the experience are all key elements of getting the most out of your physical therapy job abroad.
Education, awareness, and empowerment are fundamental to both physical therapy and travel, so it only makes sense to combine the two. Challenge yourself to forget what your comfort zone feels like, work abroad, and discover the emotional side of physical therapy as you fall for new places and faces from all around the globe.