The Benefits of Overseas Volunteer Nursing


Currently the number of volunteer nursing opportunities abroad is at its peak, with positions cropping up in leaps and bounds.  It should be noted that volunteer nurses, as well as those doing other types of medical volunteering, truly impact worldwide health care by promoting basic medical care and equipping nurses in developing countries with the tools to more effectively prevent disease.

Advantages to Overseas Volunteer Nursing

Those who volunteer seeking either nursing opportunities abroad or wanting to do medical volunteering, give generously of their time, skills and energy and as a result often feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment because they supply health care services in areas where the need is critical.  Many communities in impoverished areas do not have a medical clinic, and villagers must walk for miles just to see a doctor.  Viewing the direct results of their assistance in such areas is highly rewarding for volunteer nurses.

Other advantages to opting for nursing opportunities abroad are:

Sharpen Nursing Skills  

Volunteer nurses are able to develop and sharpen their skills before accepting or returning to a position back home.  The extreme circumstances and medical cases that a volunteer may be faced with abroad prepares a nurse to better hand challenges, overcome obstacles, and cope with emergencies.

Meet New Challenges  

The working conditions in developing countries are less than ideal in many instances.  This creates unique challenges for a volunteer nurse.  Many impoverished areas are without sufficient running water and/or electricity — meaning some nurses may deliver a baby or stitch wounds by candlelight.  Also, nurses volunteering in a developing country often see eye-opening medical cases (such as patients with elephantiasis) and uncommon causes of death, such as diarrhea.

There is also the prevalence of jiggers (a type of parasitic flea).  Thriving in unsanitary living conditions, jiggers burrow under the skin, and can then spread throughout the body.  The pain, inflammation and ulceration the flea causes can result in difficulty walking.  Cutting jiggers from under the skin of locals is definitely not something nursing courses teach, but a challenge that volunteer nurses face.

Change Community Views  

In certain international communities, many view a vista to the doctor as a ‘last resort’ and are slow to entrust their care to medical professionals, let alone those doing medical volunteering.  Nurse volunteers can provide moral support and help ease the nervousness that patients and residents may feel towards health care in general.

Help Social Groups In Dire Need of Medical Attention 

Those seeking nursing opportunities abroad will often find that cultural and public perception of certain social groups frequently means that communities and family members often overlook or intentionally ignore the needs of a great number of the population, including:

  1. The Elderly:  The elderly are especially hard-hit by a lack of resources and unable to care for themselves.  Volunteer nurses can help improve the health, as well as restore a sense of dignity amongst the older population.
  1. The Disabled:  Many localities around the world view people with disabilities through a harsh social lens, leaving the disabled with few resources.  Due to a lack of available services, people with disabilities are generally in poorer health.  Volunteer nurses work to improve the quality of care for disabled individuals overseas who typically go without essential health care and services.
  1. Children:  Volunteer nurses meet many young patients.  They may nurse malnourished children back to health or care for casualties of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  The WHO blames pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding for the HIV-positive diagnosis for 360,000 children in sub-Saharan Africa in 2010.  Volunteer nurses can help educate the population on how to prevent the spread of disease to their children.
  1. Victims of DIscrimination:  The lack of education in poor regions the world over frequently results in a higher incidence of preventable life-threatening diseases and conditions, such as HIV/AIDS.  In 2010, 1.2 million people died from AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa and 1.9 million people were infected with HIV.  Infected patients frequently face discrimination.  Volunteer nurses frequently work with local outreach and health organizations to provide healthcare, as well as a voice for individuals facing HIV-related discrimination.  This is of great importance as these people have no one else to speak for them and change the mindset of their neighbors and other locals.