Health Volunteer Abroad: Paramedic, Public Health, Midwife, Pharmacist
(Updated for 2017 trips)
In addition to sharing several medical, dental, and nursing volunteer abroad opportunities, this article will also discuss global health volunteer and internship opportunities for physical therapists, paramedics, public health specialists, pharmacists, and midwives (along with students in those fields). Read on to learn how you can apply your medical training and skills to help people in developing countries who lack access to high-quality healthcare.
Volunteer Abroad as a Health Student or Professional
Are you seeking a volunteer opportunity like no other? If you're a medical professional or a student aspiring to become one, consider putting your compassion and skills to work for people with limited access to quality healthcare.
In addition to general medical, dental, and nursing volunteer projects overseas, this article also discusses medical volunteer abroad opportunities for paramedics (EMTs), midwives, pharmacists, and public health professionals. If you’re a pre-medical, pre-dental, or nursing student, we also recommend checking out these healthcare volunteer abroad opportunities.
Volunteering in healthcare or medicine is no exception. It provides opportunities to expand your skills as well as the ability to serve others who might not have reliable medical care.
Health and medical care volunteer placements usually start from two weeks, and can vary from basic tasks such as first aid or administering vaccines in small, rural clinic, to a shadowing doctors and nurses as an observer in a large, urban hospital.
From observation, to direct care, to education, there’s no shortage of healthcare volunteer programs worldwide. And experience is not always a requirement: many volunteers are students, or considering entering school for a health or medical-related degree.
For example, volunteering abroad with Love Volunteers put Candice, a college student, in situations ranging from pediatrics (observing children receive antibiotic), to surgery (observing bone-setting to amputations) to obstetrics (witnessing live births and C-section deliveries). Her final week as a Love Volunteer in a Honduran hospital and her immersion in labor and delivery motivated her to choose nursing in obstetrics as a career path.
All the doctors and nurses I observed were all so open to teaching me about what I was seeing," Candice said as a testimonial for Love Volunteers. "They often would tell me to come closer and proceeded to explain exactly what was going on. The people there were so approachable and patient, allowing me to gain so much more knowledge from this experience.
Candice's experience is typical of volunteers in the medical field, whether one is a professional or a student. The need for assistance is urgent and a volunteer with willing hands lightens the load for overworked doctors and nurses.
If you're interested in healthcare overseas, many volunteer programs need hands-on help in the following areas:
Conducting patient interviews and building patient histories
Taking vital signs
Observing procedures conducted by local medical staff, including ENT examination, prenatal care, vaccinations, and more
Presenting patient information to medical staff for differential diagnosis and proposed treatment
Conducting public health screenings and health discussions
Volunteering in healthcare can benefit both the host community and the volunteer. Many medical professionals consider volunteering abroad as the perfect way to do what they love in a new environment.
Doctors, nurses, and other specialists look to volunteering for the personal interaction and for the challenge of helping underserved people. Graduate medical students and undergraduate pre-medical students look to volunteering for hands-on experience and guidance.
Regardless of your educational or professional status, medical and healthcare volunteers (including paramedics and other trained first responders!) are desperately needed in many countries where medical expertise is difficult to obtain.
Read on to find just a few of the many health and medical volunteer opportunities available worldwide!
Maximo Nivel was founded in Peru in 2003, and later established offices in Costa Rica and Guatemala in 2006 and 2009, respectively. The organization has hosted over 25,000 participants to date. Currently, Maximo Nivel offers TEFL/TESOL certification, international volunteering, internships, and native Spanish and native English programs in all three countries.
All of the organization’s programs are internationally accredited by the Ministries of Education in Peru and Guatemala. Maximo Nivel also works with Brookhaven College in the United States, Universidad Juan Pablo II in Costa Rica, and Universidad Rural in Guatemala.
Maximo Nivel offers volunteer opportunities in childcare, conservation, teaching, construction, medical care, and non-medical healthcare. Internship opportunities also are available in education, special education, micro business, hospitality and tourism, and medical work.
This program is geared toward first and second year medical school students, pre-med students, nursing students, and other health science students. Programs are available in specialized living facilities, where volunteers assist with caring for those who are mentally or physically disabled, elderly, or afflicted with HIV/AIDS. Volunteers may help with all aspects of patient care, including medicine distribution, feeding, bathing, workshops, and companionship. Click here to learn more.
For licensed professionals and third and fourth year medical students, Maximo Nivel offers the opportunity to work in clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. Volunteers may shadow doctors and nurses, assist with checkups and triage, organize medical campaigns, take vitals, organize records, sterilize equipment, and more. Placement and types of work depend on the volunteer’s background, Spanish language ability, and the needs of the medical staff. Click here to learn more about this program. Click here to learn more.
If you want to build your career through an internship abroad, check out Maximo Nivel’s medical internship in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru. For one month or longer, you’ll learn about medical practices in a developing country while working alongside a local medical professional in a hospital, clinic, assisted living facility, or in a private practice.
You’ll gain practical, hands-on experience through patient consultation, performing check-ups, helping with elderly care, promoting health education, and much more, depending on your background, studies, and experience. You must have intermediate Spanish language background to sign up, and you must be enrolled in a pre-med, medical, or nursing program, or be a licensed medical professional. Click here to learn more: http://maximonivel.com/internships/medical
What Volunteers Say
Trip to Guatemala was epic. We volunteered in clinics and went to schools and taught them health and dental hygiene. Maximo literally gave us everything we needed. Not only did we teach we also learned. We returned feeling good about ourselves and having a drive to do well in school and save the world. If you want to do good to the world use Maximo Nivel and go to Guatemala.
One opportunity that’s perfect for younger travelers who want to learn about medicine or healthcare is Global Leadership Adventures. Combining community service, hands-on learning, and adventure travel, Global Leadership Adventures provides students with the chance to learn about healthcare and medicine in developing countries, build facilities to improve community health, and much more. And as an organization whose co-founder was recognized by President Obama for making a positive impact in Africa, GLA is an amazing way for younger travelers to explore the world, make a difference, and learn about medical care and community health.
If you’re a high schooler interested in a degree in medicine or public health, check out Global Leadership Adventures’ Global Health Initiative in the Dominican Republic. As a participant on this program, you’ll have the chance to meet with community leaders to learn about health, sustainability, and education; assist doctors, nurses, and other volunteers with their work; help with construction projects, and much more. For the adventure portion of your trip, you’ll go hiking, hang out at the beach, and go on wildlife sightseeing tours. This 14-day program costs $3,699 - click here to learn more.
Another excellent program to check out through Global Leadership Adventures is their Global Health Initiative in Bali. Through this program, you’ll volunteer alongside local health professionals, NGOs, and community leaders at a primary care clinic in a small village by recording data, helping with pulse checks, restocking supplies, and more. You’ll also help develop a health education workshop for local youth as part of this program. Along with your community service program, you’ll also be able to visit temples, go on a rice paddy walk, and even take in live music and dinner at the Royal Palace. As with the Dominican Republic Global Health Initiative program, this trip lasts 14 days at $3,699. Learn more and apply here!
Founded in 1998, Global Vision International (GVI) is an award-winning organization that provides high-quality community development and conservation programs worldwide. GVI offers a variety of programs including academic year abroad, internships, under-18 programs, and volunteering abroad projects. GVI has hosted over 25,000 participants to date.
Most of GVI’s placements focus on wildlife and marine conservation, children, teaching, healthcare, construction, and sports. Volunteers may work in North and Central America, Europe, Australia, the Pacific, Asia, and Africa. GVI partners with Save the Children, The Red Cross, WWF, SANParks, and The Jane Goodall Institute to ensure quality placements and work within their communities.
Based in Kerala, volunteers on this program may work on two projects - at a special needs school and one at a relief settlement for individuals with mental and physical illnesses. Volunteers may assist with a variety of therapeutic sessions and basic activities at both of these locations. This program lasts two to 12 weeks, and volunteers will receive all training prior to beginning their work - click here to learn more.
Volunteers on this expedition will travel to Thailand and Nepal to assist with rehabilitation and health initiatives. In Thailand, volunteers work with children with physical disabilities or injuries, and may travel to schools or community centers to assist with health and hygiene lessons. In Nepal, volunteers provide support to those with special needs and train teachers, healthcare workers, and families in providing medical assistance to these individuals. There are no background requirements for this program, which lasts eight weeks. Click here to learn more.
What Volunteers Say
This really was a trip of a lifetime. My 6 week stay in South Africa was the first time I had done anything like this and certainly the first time I had been abroad on my own.
I had a great time and experienced so much whilst out in the bush. The sights and sounds of the African bush are something you can never forget, nearly 3 years on and the memories are so vivid it’s like i was there last week.
The staff both in the UK and in the field were excellent- very supportive, enthusiastic and clearly loved their jobs. In fact I have never met such passionate people and they really made me determined to finish my degree and follow in their footsteps. Overall it was an amazing trip, worth every penny, and I would 100% do it all over again!
Established in 2009 in Auckland, New Zealand, Love Volunteers is a nonprofit organization founded to help thousands of people in needy communities worldwide. Love Volunteers has offered more than 150 volunteering programs in 35 developing countries throughout Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Asia. Volunteer programs include childcare, community development, construction and outdoors, environmental conservation, healthcare and medical, disabilities, sport, arts and music, teaching and education, wildlife and animals, and women's empowerment.
Volunteers on this program will assist with a local hospital in La Ceiba, Honduras, by helping dentists directly, preparing equipment, and visiting schools to educate children in oral hygiene. Applicants must be students or professionals in this field, and must have high-beginner level of Spanish language ability. This program starts from one week at $190, and volunteers can stay up to 24 weeks. Click here to learn more about this program.
Based in Quito, Ecuador, volunteers will shadow local doctors at a hospital or clinic, and depending on their background and abilities, may take on additional responsibilities to assist medical staff with their daily routines. This internship is suited for pre-med and medical students as well as medical professionals who would like to gain additional experience abroad. Experience in medical field and a high level of Spanish language is essential to this program, which lasts one week or longer. Click here to learn more about this program.
Based in Kenya, volunteers on this program assist with visiting slums to deliver food and medicine, and to provide basic medical care. Participants also help with raising awareness about the disease and educating those affected about medical care options. There is an optional two-week introductory course for this program, where volunteers may learn to take blood samples, test blood, and work directly with patients. Placements start from one week at $235. Click here to learn more about this program.
Love Volunteers also offers an excellent program for pharmacists to volunteer in Mombasa and Diani Beach, Kenya. In Mombasa, you’ll work either at the Shanzu Village Prison Hospital, which provides care for the prison and for the local community, or at the Central City Hospital, the largest hospital in the coastal area. In Diani Beach, you can work in a smaller clinic or in a dispensary – a good program both for students and for medical professionals. Click here to learn more about this opportunity.
What Volunteers Say
It was one of the best decisions in my life to go to Ghana for Volunteering. I will never forget this experience. I've received so much love from all the people there. I feel in the love with the kids there, i think anyone will do! I can totally recommend you going there. This is something you will carry in your heart a lifetime.
Beside all the medical preparation beforehand I can recommend you to go there with an open mind and heart and it will be the best time in your Life. Everyone is so helpful and caring that you will feel like you are visiting family! :)
Founded in 1992, Project Abroad is one of the largest volunteer travel organizations in the world. Since its inception, Projects Abroad has placed more than 100,000 volunteers throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America on volunteer and internship programs. Projects Abroad offers placements in care programs (working in care centers, schools, and special needs clinics), teaching, conservation, archaeology, construction, agriculture, and more. Internship opportunities are available in medicine and healthcare, law and human rights, journalism, microfinance, international development, business, and veterinary medicine and animal care.
In this internship, participants work with a local healthcare professional to perform house-to-house surveys and screenings, including checking the temperature, pulse, blood pressure, Body Mass Index (BMI), blood sugar, and cholesterol levels.
Based on the data collected through these visits, families and individuals in Bogo City will receive information and care if necessary to prevent and treat non-communicable diseases (NCDs) - this also helps the city’s healthcare workers to respond to medical trends among their community. This program lasts two weeks or longer, and interns work from 8:00am to 5:00pm Monday through Friday. Click here to learn more.
Interns on this program will work alongside doctors and nurses at a partner hospital in Rabat to provide care for women in maternity units. Intern roles and responsibilities depend on background experience, but all participants are able to observe doctors or nurses and discuss treatments and practices for each case. Interns must have completed one year of midwifery studies or training, and speak intermediate French or Arabic. Programs last two weeks or longer, and interns work from 8:00am to 5:00pm Monday through Friday. Click here to learn more about this program.
What Volunteers Say
Last year, I spent two months volunteering at Mwanayamala Hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. There, I rotated through the different departments of the hospital, bandaging wounds, growing lab samples, observing surgeries, and conversing with doctors.
It was an incredible experience as I had the opportunity to immerse myself in a completely different culture and learn about medicine outside of America. Now, a year later, as I'm interviewing for medical school and have some perspective on my time in Dar es Salaam, I've realized how life-changing it was.
Volunteering with Projects Abroad helped me become comfortable with travel abroad and helped me discover my passion for service and for public health. Although Projects Abroad is pricy, the memories I gained and the friendships I've formed, not only with other volunteers, but also with the doctors at the hospital, are priceless.
A Broader View Volunteers is an international nonprofit organization based in Pennsylvania. This organization inspires volunteers to work alongside local counterparts on programs including day care, community development, teaching, medical care, and more. Projects in A Broader View’s healthcare and medical focus include working in an elderly care centre, medical and dental healthcare, paramedical/rescue, HIV/AIDS prevention and care, and rehabilitation. Placements are available in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.
In this program, volunteers may assist local staff in the La Mesa community with patient rehabilitation, including physical, occupational, speech therapy, and special needs care for children and adults. Those volunteers who have paramedical experience may assist with emergency care and patient transport as well. This project lasts one to eight weeks, and volunteers must have basic Spanish language ability. Participants also must be able to work 30 to 40 hours a week, Monday through Friday. Click here to learn more about this program.
Volunteers on the San Jose Paramedical / Rescue program assist local paramedics with providing emergency support throughout the city. Volunteers learn about stabilizing patients, CPR and first aid, rescue scenarios, and more. This program lasts four to eight weeks, and volunteers must be able to work 10 hours a day, four days per week. Volunteers also must be proficient in Spanish. Click here to learn more.
What Volunteers Say
I volunteered at the Main Hospital in Cusco Peru January 9th to the 27th, 2014. My best advice is to be willing to absorb & adapt to the different hospital environment. The quicker you learn how they do things there & accept that it’s not as clean & pretty as the hospital you’re used to at home, the quicker you can really jump in there & help.
NATURALLY AFRICA VOLUNTEERS
Naturally Africa Volunteers was founded in 2010 by Marc Crouch and Felicity Milligan, who have over 14 years’ experience working with volunteer organizations worldwide. Headquartered in Tonbridge, Kent, Naturally Africa Volunteers offers a variety of teaching, sports, medical and healthcare, and wildlife conservation projects in Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Namibia, and South Africa.
All project partners are selected by Naturally Africa Volunteers based on sustainability objectives and work carried out to improve the living standard of disadvantaged communities and conservation of Africa’s natural habitat and wildlife.
Volunteers on this project work in a small town called Katima Mulilo, located at the bank of Zambezi River. As a volunteer, you’ll assist the doctors, nurses, and other health workers within the Caprivi region. Volunteers are placed in the Katima Mulilo Regional Hospital or local clinics, at regional centers to provide care and individual attention for vulnerable children, or at a center for children with disabilities. Volunteers must be 18 or older - click here to learn more.
This program invites qualified medical or health professionals or experienced volunteers to assist with malaria prevention and awareness, HIV/AIDS awareness, and home-based or local care, including basic medical attention. Volunteers stay in a shared house at the southern end of Lake Malawi, and meals are provided three times a day. Click here to learn more about this program.
What Volunteers Say
From June-July 2-14, I volunteered with Naturally Africa in the village of Nkope, Malawi. My experience was excellent. I was impressed with the mix of international and local staff, the commitment to cultural awareness, and genuine community engagement.
The program was oriented toward improving the lives of those in the village through health and education. Its goals were focused and realistic, making its work more impactful. The camaraderie between staff and volunteers was wonderful. I highly recommend this program.
PARAMEDICS FOR CHILDREN
Founded in 1997, Paramedics for Children began as an organization dedicated to providing ambulances to and training for the first professional rescue and ambulance squads in Honduras. Since then, the organization has expanded to encompass not only emergency services, but educational support and clinical medical care as well. Volunteers can sign up for a variety of projects, with most work concentrated in Copan, Honduras.
Paramedics for Children’s medical volunteer program invites volunteers with medical training (paramedics, nurses, PAs, and physicians) to work hands-on in the organization’s clinic, Clinica La Esperanza, in Honduras. Tasks can include assisting the local doctor with checkups, prescriptions, referrals, and more. Volunteers work Monday through Friday for one of two shifts between 7:00am and 3:00pm. This program lasts one week or longer, and volunteers are housed at the same site as the clinic. Click here to learn more about this program.
Founded in 2009, Global Nomadic provides internship placements and volunteer experiences in a variety of fields including wildlife, environment, medical, veterinary, education, media, human rights and law, economic development, NGO development, and archaeology. This organization was developed to assist young professionals with gaining experience in their field through programs at home and abroad. Global Nomadic’s volunteers work with local NGOs, charities, and communities that help them gain hands-on experience and sharpen their skills, enabling them to further build their careers.
Medical Internship - Mongolia
This medical internship is based in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and can last from one month to six months. As this is an ongoing project, there is no specific start or end date – the first month volunteer fee is $995, plus $495 for each month thereafter. Participants on this medical internship must be 18 years or older and able to work at least one month, at 30 hours of work per week. Interns can expect to shadow doctors, administer basic treatments, monitor and observe patients, assist with record keeping, and more. Click here to learn more.
Health Education and Awareness Project - Brazil
Based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this project invites volunteers to provide healthcare education in low-income communities by developing healthcare strategies and organizing activities to engage the local population. Volunteers can join this project for a minimum of three weeks, with arrival dates on second and fourth Saturday of each month. You can choose to work full-time or part-time, but must be able to dedicate at least 10 hours per week to this project – you should have a background in healthcare to apply for this program. The cost for this program is $1,210 for first three weeks, plus $110 for each week after that. Click here to learn more about this program.
HIV & Public Health Internship - Uganda
Located at Kampala, Uganda, this project invites interns to work hands-on in health education in a community affected by HIV/AIDS. This is an excellent opportunity for health professionals, teachers, and students to assist with teaching the community – especially children whose families have been affected by HIV/AIDS – about the disease and its prevention, plus educating about other health concerns. This program lasts two weeks to six months, with a starting project fee of $800, plus $150 for each week after that. Interns must be able to work at least 25 hours per week. Click here to learn more about this internship.
VOLUNTARY PROJECTS OVERSEAS
Projects Overseas is a nonprofit organization operating in Cambodia, Uganda, Thailand, India, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Argentina, Peru, and Costa Rica. Within 10 years, this organization has placed nearly 2,000 volunteers in different projects across the world. Voluntary Projects Overseas offers a number of placements in teaching, wildlife and conservation, construction, and community care. Volunteer opportunities are available for individuals, families, and groups, with short-term placements for those volunteers that cannot dedicate a significant amount of time to their projects.
Cameroon Internship Program
Located in Buea, Cameroon, interns on this program are asked to stay for at least three months, and may assist with health education and project coordination. No educational or healthcare qualification is required for this program. Outside of the internship, participants may visit volcanoes or beaches, go hiking, view wildlife, and lots more. This project also includes mentoring and local language coaching, as well as one to two city tours. Click here to learn more about this internship.
READY TO GO?
If you’re new to volunteering abroad, Volunteer Forever is a fantastic way to find and fund a volunteer trip. Using the resources on this website alone, you can read program reviews, seek existing grants or scholarship funding, or create a fundraising campaign of your own. Regardless how you choose and pay for your volunteer experience, one truism remains: you will take home more than you bring along.
And if you’d like to learn more about healthcare and medical volunteering, be sure to read these handy articles:
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