Updated for 2019
Many of you have heard of Doctors without Borders, an organization in which doctors volunteer their time to help patients in medically under-served areas around the world. But did you know that nurses are a critical component of these medical teams and that there are dozens of international volunteer organizations around the world that are in need of nurses? Even if you are currently a nursing student, you will see that there are ample international opportunities to develop your nursing skill set while helping those who regularly lack access to healthcare.
Nursing students and professionals: ready to make a real difference by volunteering abroad? Worldwide, there is an urgent need for quality healthcare and health education among impoverished, remote, and underserved populations–and that’s where you’ll step in as an overseas healthcare volunteer. By combining your skills with a desire to serve, you can build your expertise, learn about healthcare practices in different communities, and above all: help those who need it the most.
One thing that ties together many nursing volunteer abroad programs is the clinics and hospitals you’ll work in often are understaffed and in need of assistance with basic activities and daily tasks. As a volunteer, your work may include:
- Assisting with basic medical tasks such as first aid or administering vaccines
- Taking vitals and building patient histories
- Performing day-to-day activities such as sterilizing instruments, completing paperwork, or readying clinics for intake
- Observing local medical staff to learn healthcare practices in developing countries or communities
- Conducting home visits and surveys to understand the most common or priority medical needs facing the community
- Educating individuals, families, and communities about hygiene, family planning, and other healthcare issues
Nursing volunteer placements like those with organizations such as International Volunteer HQ and Maximo Nivel offer one-week programs, while others, such as those through Plan My Gap Year, usually start from two weeks. Agape Volunteers is another volunteer program that welcomes nursing students to their medical projects. Projects Abroad also offers nursing internships abroad in 13 countries. Nursing volunteer abroad projects can vary from intensive, hands-on work in a large, urban hospital to basic observation and education in a rural clinic. As a volunteer with a skills-based program like nursing, the tasks you’ll take on are dependent on your skillset and the needs of your host community.
Who can go?
Depending on the program, volunteer opportunities are open to professional nurses, to nursing students, and even to those with no healthcare background, but who’d like to learn more. For those interested in nursing, but who don’t have background in it yet, International Volunteer HQ and other organizations offer observational placements for volunteers that would like to learn about medicine and healthcare.
Nursing professionals can put their expertise to great use overseas through organizations like Maximo Nivel, which offers nursing placements in Latin America. If you’re interested in affordable volunteering options in Africa, we recommend checking out Agape Volunteers, which desperately needs nurses and nursing students in Ghana, Tanzania, and Kenya. Unlike most volunteer programs, Agape is really unique in that they don’t charge a separate application fee and comprehensive trip insurance is included free of charge, making them one of the most affordable volunteer programs in Africa.
Ready to go?
Here are just a few organizations providing much-needed healthcare to medically underserved communities worldwide–read on to find the right nursing program for you!
International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) offers a variety of programs across 40+ destinations in Asia, the Pacific, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and Latin America. IVHQ and its volunteers work alongside local NGOs to meet needs within their communities. Programs range from one week to 24 weeks. Since its start in 2007, IVHQ has hosted over 80,000 participants and now sends over 10,000 volunteers abroad each year.
About IVHQ’s Nursing Programs
IVHQ offers projects for volunteers of varying experience levels to coordinate with host-country counterparts in the medical field, or to teach healthcare practices locally. Placements include clinics or hospitals, home care, assisted living or special needs centers, and public health awareness programs, depending on the volunteer’s background and level of experience.
IVHQ’s healthcare, health education, HIV/AIDS work, and medical placements are available in Argentina, Bali, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Nepal, Peru, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda, and Vietnam.
In Argentina, for example, IVHQ volunteers work alongside local professionals at small clinics in underserved communities. Volunteers in this program usually shadow local doctors as they carry out their day-to-day work, while the amount of independence within the project is determined by the volunteer’s expertise, Spanish language proficiency, program length, personality, and ability to lead.
In Nepal, volunteers may work alongside local medical professionals at a remote health clinic, assisting with daily healthcare and medical activities, as well as conducting educational presentations for community members. This project is open to students and professionals that have completed at least two years of medical or nursing school.
In Uganda, students and professionals that have completed at least two years of medical or nursing school are welcome to volunteer in clinics along with local professionals. Volunteers can assist with a variety of health services, with a large number of patients seen each day. Areas of work include general medicine, family planning, pediatrics, immunizations, HIV/AIDS, and more.
In Peru, nursing students can participate as IVHQ medical volunteers in clinics and hospitals, performing a variety of tasks, including: taking weight, height, blood pressure, heart rate and temperature, making beds, cleaning, talking with patients, preparing materials, administering vaccinations, and sterilizing equipment. Third and fourth-year students may also clean wounds, give injections and sutures, assist in consult rooms and specialized departments, help doctors in taking physicals and histories, give vaccinations, take records, draw blood samples, and provide basic assistance with physiotherapy. You’ll need proof of education and your own scrubs in order to sign up, and your level of placement depends upon your knowledge of Spanish.
Since 2011, Plan My Gap Year has offered affordable and meaningful volunteer trips to Africa and Asia, with projects including childcare, teaching, wildlife conservation, community development, medical care, and mental health. PMGY hosts over 3,000 volunteers per year and prides itself on transparency and accountability, ensuring that your trip is safe and impactful, and that as a volunteer, you know where your money is going. Right now, PMGY is offering a wide range of medical and healthcare volunteer opportunities perfect for nurses and nursing students.
PMGY’s medical volunteer program in India gives you the chance to work hands-on with local professionals and gain experience and insights into the Indian health system. As a volunteer, you’ll work with a free medical camp in a slum community, or in a clinic or hospital. The medical camp is particularly well-suited for nursing students, who can help keep the clinic operational and provide much-needed services to the local community. This program starts from two weeks at $330, and you’re invited to stay up to six months.
Another opportunity that’s great for nurses and nursing students through Plan My Gap Year is their Ghana medical volunteer program, where you’ll work at the Manhyia government hospital in Kumasi. While you can sign up to assist with general work at the hospital, PMGY also offers specific program opportunities for nursing students looking for an overseas elective – this program can be tailored to your needs and your school’s requirements. Regardless of the track you sign up for, you’re encouraged to stay six weeks to gain the most from your experience, which can also be combined with a community-based volunteer project. This program starts from two weeks at $465.
Travel to Bali with Plan My Gap Year and learn about how traditional healing integrates with western methods through this volunteer program. As a volunteer, you will start with a seminar that teaches about traditional culture in caring for patients, and how local medical professionals incorporate these beliefs into their work. This program places you at the busy government-operated hospital of Rumah Sakit Umum Tabanan, where you will have the chance to volunteer in the following areas: General Surgery, Intensive Care, Emergency, Maternity and Midwifery, Neonatal, Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Antenatal, Prenatal, Ultrasound, General Medicine, Outpatient, and Public Health. This program starts from two weeks at $435.
If you’re looking to further your career in medicine, consider Plan My Gap Year’s medical program in Tanzania, where you’ll gain firsthand experience and insight into a developing country’s healthcare system. As a volunteer, you’ll work alongside qualified medical staff at the Tengeru government hospital close to Arusha, performing a variety of tasks dependent upon your level of experience. The majority of patients that you’ll see require care for obstetrics, malarial and typhoid treatment, basic dentistry, and infections. This program is open to travelers with all medical backgrounds – program fees start at $540 for two weeks, and you are invited to stay up to six months.
Travel to the exotic locale of Sri Lanka and volunteer for a medical experience alongside local physicians and support staff in the areas of Physiotherapy, Dental Surgery, Radiology (x-ray machine and computerized radiology), Laboratory, and Phlebotomy. You will take on the role of an observer in this experience abroad, and will be partnered with an English-speaking member of the staff; however, on rare occasions, you may be asked to take a patient’s blood pressure or blood sugar readings, under supervision. You’ll see a variety of cases and medical treatment under challenging conditions at this two-week program. All participants, regardless of placement, will have the opportunity to participate in a seminar about Ayurveda Medicine, one of the world’s oldest medical systems. Fees begin at $420 for a two-week duration.
Since 2009, Love Volunteers has provided impactful volunteer and intern abroad placements in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas, with more than 120 programs to choose from. It’s also an incredibly fast-growing volunteer organization, with more than 4,000 volunteers placed overseas in the past year. A few of Love Volunteers’ popular destinations include:
- Asia: Nepal, Thailand, Bali
- Latin America: Peru, Costa Rica, Ecuador
- Africa: South Africa, Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania
Love Volunteers’ international programs start from just $175 for your first week abroad (depending on the type of project and the location), so it’s one of the most affordable organizations that you can work with. Love Volunteers offers a variety of medical and healthcare programs worldwide, with lots of opportunities for registered nurses and for nursing students to join. Here are just a few of the many projects you may be interested in:
In India, you’re invited to sign up for Love Volunteers’ Medical Internship in Delhi, where you’ll work alongside trained nurses and other staff in a large hospital in South Delhi, and you may be able to focus on a specialty or department that will help you the most with your education and career.
In Kenya, you can help with the operation of a local drug awareness community center, which performs outreach and support to areas of the Diani Beach community where drug users may spend the most time. You’ll assist a local team with collecting and disposing of used needles, clean and dress wounds and abscesses, distributing clean needles, alcohol wipes, and other supplies, and assisting drop-in clients at the center.
Love Volunteers also invites you to Sri Lanka, where you can volunteer in a private hospital, a center for pregnant mothers, an elderly care facility, or a mental disability ward. As with the organization’s other placements for nurses, you’ll be paired with a trained staff member at your project location, and your tasks will vary depending on your experience and the needs of the volunteer location.
If you are studying nursing, in medical school, or are a professional, consider Love Volunteers’ medical internship in Quito, Ecuador, where you’ll have the opportunity to learn from and work alongside local professionals in a hospital, clinic, or care facility. Depending on your level of education and your background, you may observe, assist with basic procedures, or help with other experience-appropriate tasks.
Love Volunteers Nursing Volunteer Review by Yee Sheau Ai-Yin
It was a childhood dream of mine to volunteer overseas one day. I’ve been working as a nurse for five years. As I was bonded, I had no choice but to complete the bond first in order to achieve my dream. As I wanted to do something new and go out of my comfort zone, I chose to be involved in the Working With Children Program.
I was posted to the Ky Quang Pagoda Orphanage to help out with the care of disabled children. When I first saw the children, I felt nervous, whether I could perform well to take care of them. As the day went by, I brought them for a walk and helped to feed them. It was difficult; I took almost an hour to complete my task. And so on the second day onward, I began to understand their eating habits and learned to feed them accordingly.
Coming here to volunteer also gave me a chance to get to know fellow volunteers who came from around the world such as France, US, Canada and many more. I’m glad we shared common interest in humanity and trying to maintain it by bringing positive vibes representing our own countries. I believe that volunteering needs no verbal language to understand each other, we need but kindness and compassion to join our hearts together to lend a helping hand to make the children’s life better.
Agape Volunteers is an excellent choice if you are looking for a reputable and affordable volunteer abroad trip to Africa where you can hone your skills and make a positive impact. Founded in 2011, AV is a registered UK charity that offers a variety of programs including volunteering, tourism, and development work in Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana, and Maasai-land. Program costs include registration and administration fees, tours and excursions, housing and feed, and even travel insurance, making Agape Volunteers the most affordable option for volunteering in Africa.
Volunteers with the HIV Prevention program help to promote the future health of Kenya, while gaining invaluable work experience and skills in a variety of fields. Assist in a clinic and in wider communities, carrying out HIV tests and distributing medicine. You also can help counsel those with HIV.
Because of the unique challenges that come with working in communities affected by HIV, you’ll take part in an internationally recognized HTC course that trains you in safe practices when dealing with sufferers, including for testing. This program also includes spending a day volunteering at an IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp, working to improve the daily lives of refugees. Costs start at £590 for one week. Learn more and apply here.
Gain invaluable medical experience when you volunteer at a Ghana hospital or clinic with Agape Volunteers. If you have completed at least one year of medical school, or if you have experience as a nurse, you can develop your skills in health care while learning from local medical professionals as they treat patients on their rounds. Depending upon your level of experience, you may be able to assist with more responsible tasks such as prescribing and distributing medicines, dressing wounds, and assisting with births. Stay in dorm-style rooms at Agape’s base in Ghana, situated on the beach. You’ll also enjoy a free tour of Jamestown, a historic area of Accra which is now the site of a fishing village. Program costs start at £510 for one week. Read more and apply.
Join Agape in Tanzania on a medical training program and boost your skills in healthcare and first aid as a nurse volunteer. You’ll shadow a local doctor and learn about common diseases and ailments, and how to treat them despite limited resources. As you progress in your placement, you’ll have the opportunity to perform basic procedures, including dressing wounds, and prescribing and distributing medicines. You’ll also have the opportunity to assist with medical outreach projects in the community. Stay at a guesthouse in Arusha, a short walk from the city center. Sign up for one week, or stay up to one year, with fees starting at £695. Click here to start your application!
Founded in Peru in 2003, Maximo Nivel offers volunteer and intern abroad programs, TEFL certification, and Spanish language programs in Peru, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. Since its start, 25,000 travelers have taken part in Maximo Nivel’s affordable programs in Latin America. Maximo Nivel provides a variety of placements for those interested in health care and medical work, including programs for nurses and nursing students.
Maximo Nivel offers medical care and non-medical healthcare placements to volunteers who’d like to work in hospitals, clinics, assisted living facilities, and other healthcare facilities.
Healthcare projects are open to year 1 and 2 med school students, as well as pre-med, nursing, and other healthcare science students, while medical programs are open to year 3 and 4 medical school students and licensed professionals, including nurses.
Depending on your background and Spanish language level, you may shadow doctors or nurses, assist with checkups, take vitals, organize patient records, and much more. Medical programs through Maximo Nivel start at an affordable $660 for one week, and include airport pickup, project management, housing, two meals per day, a walking tour, and more. To learn more about opportunities for nursing students and professionals, visit: http://www.maximonivel.com/volunteers/medical-healthcare/
Through Maximo Nivel’s medical internship, you can visit Peru, Guatemala, or Costa Rica and help communities in need. As an intern, you’ll work for four weeks or longer in a hospital, clinic, private practice, or assisted living facility while gaining practical nursing experience by partnering with a local medical professional and learning about healthcare and medical practices in a developing nation.
Depending on your experience and qualifications, you can assist with patient consultation, check-ups, elderly care, health education, triage, and administrative assistance. To apply, you must have intermediate Spanish language ability, and you must be enrolled in a nursing program or be a licensed medical professional. Learn more about Maximo Nivel’s medical internship at: http://maximonivel.com/internships/medical
If you’re a nursing student or a professional in the healthcare field and you’re interested in volunteer opportunities overseas, try out Abroadly, a new booking platform by Volunteer Forever that invites you to compare more than 150 programs offered by its vetted, reputable partners, and apply for meaningful volunteer placements and internships worldwide.
Abroadly makes it easy for you to search for exactly the right program in the areas of health and medicine, child and youth development, human rights, construction and community development, education, sports and recreation, and wildlife and environmental conservation.
When you apply for a program through Abroadly, your application fee is 100% refundable if you are not accepted into the program of your choice. In addition, you’ll have free access to Volunteer Forever’s crowdfunding platform, engaging your family and friends as you raise money for your trip abroad, and for donations you may want to take with you to your project. You application essay can be submitted for the chance to win a $500 scholarship as well, which you can use for anything – from airplane tickets, to scrubs, to medical equipment, and more!
If you’re passionate about helping others in need, consider a program with Khaya Volunteer Projects that lets you volunteer at a hospital in Arusha, Tanzania. The families who visit St. Elizabeth Hospital in downtown Arusha, as well as Selian Hospital in nearby Ngaramtoni, need assistance and the doctors and nurses here are overwhelmed and under-resourced. If you are a nursing student or medical professional, you can get hands-on experience in a variety of tasks, from drawing blood to delivering babies!
On weekends, you are invited to explore Arusha, and your in-country coordinator can recommend popular places to visit. Arusha is located at the base of volcanic Mount Meru, and is a gateway to safari destinations. Mount Kilimanjaro is to the northeast, and to the west lies Serengeti National Park. Costs for this program start at $410 for one week, with stays lasting up to three months. Read more here and apply!
Gain experience in public health on a medical volunteer trip to Koforidua, Ghana with uVolunteer. This placement is great for medical students, pre-med students, nurses, paramedics, and anyone with an interest in learning about healthcare in a developing country, and if you’re medically qualified you can apply for a temporary work certificate. This opportunity allows you to work in general practice, physical therapy, maternity and surgical wards at the Koforidua Hospital, where you’ll also observe treatment of tropical and unique illnesses, such as leprosy, typhoid, and malaria. Support staff and patients in the prenatal, labor, and postnatal wards. Learn how to assess pediatric patients, and diagnose conditions, or assist with rehabilitation in the outpatient department.
Relax during your off-time by visiting the Aburi Botanical Gardens, or the iconic Boti Falls. There are cafes and restaurants in the central business district, and Linda D’or is a popular shopping center. Stay for three to 12 weeks on this project, with fees starting at $1,035. Learn more and apply here.
If you speak Spanish and would like to gain hands-on experience in the medical field, take a look at INLEXCA’s volunteer program providing healthcare to the residents of San Ramon. Although people who live in Costa Rica receive free healthcare, medical personnel and resources are limited. You’ll work alongside medical professionals, including doctors and nurses, to treat patients in rural clinics and hospitals. This placement is a great choice for nursing students in their third year or beyond, and an excellent opportunity to gain hands-on experience in your field.
During weekends, tour the natural wonders of San Ramon – a great location for hikers with its many forest trails and cloud canopy tours. If you’re a history buff, check out the San Ramon Regional Museum, or tour coffee plantations. The fee is $1,449 with stays from four to eight weeks. Read more and register here!
Considering a career in nursing, medicine, or healthcare? A medical internship in Cape Town, South Africa with SAVE Volunteering will give you opportunities to participate in compassionate care in a unique health system that guarantees to enhance your resume. While on this program, you’ll gain international work experience, develop a global understanding of healthcare and medicine, learn about South African treatment, and make a difference in the lives of people facing serious health challenges. You’ll work with a 24-hour emergency care clinic, the largest in the Western Cape, and serving more than 500 patients daily in its outpatient clinics. Shadow qualified doctors and nurses, rotate between different providers and departments, and be exposed to many disciplines and specialties.
Time off can be spent visiting historical sites within Cape town, including Castle of Good Hope and the Grand Parade. Enjoy a day at the beach, or walk the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. Take a cable car up Table Mountain and enjoy breathtaking views of the city, or visit the famous Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was held in prison during the apartheid era. This internship requires a 12-week commitment, and you’re invited to stay up to six months. Program costs start at $2,888. Click here to read more and apply.
Looking for an unforgettable trip abroad? Consider a placement that allows you to volunteer with medical care in Peru, shadowing medical practitioners and assisting in the compassionate care of indigent residents of Cusco. Offered by Volunteering Solutions, this opportunity is suitable for nursing, premed, and medical students wanting clinical experience by working with professionals. If you have medical experience and Spanish language skills, you may be asked to assist with various procedures such as suturing wounds, giving vaccinations, helping with taking vital signs of patients, being involved in the daily procedures of medical centers, and observing or directly providing various sorts of assistance to local doctors and nurses.
Cusco is located in the Andes Mountains, and once was the capital of the Inca Empire. It’s famous for its Spanish architecture and Incan ruins. Spend your free time exploring the city, shopping its colorful market stalls, and touring the Sacred Valley, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Machu Picchu. Stay for two weeks to four months on this program. Fees start at $845. Read more and register here!
Since 2006, GoEco has offered affordable volunteer abroad programs and internships in over 45 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Australasia, Central America, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and South America. With more than 170 different wildlife, marine, and medical programs, GoEco is a great organization to check out if you’re looking for a variety of impactful trips to choose from, from wildlife conservation to teaching English. GoEco was recently recognized as the Top Volunteer Abroad Organization from GoAbroad, Top Eco-Enthusiast by Greenmatch, and has been recommended by Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and more. As a volunteer, you will have 24-hour support from the GoEco team, from start to finish.
Volunteer in the southeastern Andes Mountains in health care or for a more hands-on medical care volunteer experience. This program has opportunities available for everyone, from those just starting out at university, and those who already hold medical qualifications. Volunteers will be placed based on their level of experience, but all placements allow volunteers to experience the Peruvian health care system firsthand. Learn more here.
Become a medical intern in a hospital in Cape Town! This medical internship focuses heavily on the shadowing of medical professionals, but those who are qualified may be able to assist in hands-on tasks, such as assisting the nursing staff with vital signs and administering HIV tests. Interns may be placed in triage, pharmacy or maternity obstetrics units. Learn more and sign up.
If you are a nursing student or professional, or if you’re just interested in medicine and public health, check out GoEco’s rural healthcare and HIV/AIDS awareness program in South Africa. On this trip, you will help with a variety of projects in rural villages throughout St. Lucia to increase HIV/AIDS support and health care – a few projects that you can help with include a family empowerment program, home-based care and nutrition, HIV/AIDS support group, and HIV education classes for adults. In addition to volunteering, you can visit other areas of St. Lucia, go surfing and snorkeling, or take weekend trips to Thanda Reserve or Mozambique. Learn more and sign up here!
Another great opportunity for students, nurses, and those interested in public health brings you to Livingstone, Zambia, where you can provide assistance in an understaffed medical clinic and contribute to community activities. Depending on your background, qualifications, and interests, you can help with filing patient records and observing patient care at a clinic; providing home-based care and education about HIV, hygiene, and nutrition for bedridden and immobile patients; or supporting patients at an elderly home through companionship, conducting health talks, and more. In addition to your volunteer program, you can go on a sunset cruise of the Zambezi River, a two-night safari in Chobe National Park, a helicopter ride over Victoria Falls, and much more. Click here to apply!
What Volunteers Say
Hi, my name is Jessica and I am presently in my second year of med school in Canada. Since I love travelling and discovering new environments and cultures, I was totally excited when I heard about GoEco’s Medical Placement in Ho Chi Minh project in Vietnam. I knew this would combine perfectly my desire to explore the world and my passion for healthcare. I chose Vietnam because Asia is a continent that really fascinates me and is also very different from where I come from. I really wanted to go out of my comfort zone and I have to say my whole experience with the GoEco team was an amazing journey…
Whether you’re just interested in being a nurse volunteer or aim to advance your career through an internship, you’ll find a suitable program on Fronteering. The organization has become one of the most popular names in volunteering thanks to their impactful, high-quality projects that offer participants a unique experience.
For those on a budget, Fronteering is also a great choice. Their programs are affordable and they’re fully transparent about where fees go. Ready to look for a nursing internship or volunteer project abroad? Check out Fronteering’s programs here.
A great program for nursing students and professionals with experience in healthcare, this medical volunteer program takes you to Accra, where you’ll assist in local hospitals that are understaffed and lack proper resources. Depending on your education and experience, your role may be more or less hands-on. This is a wonderful opportunity to help patients who need and deserve compassionate care, and you’ll get to learn all about Ghana’s healthcare system during the program. If you’re aspiring to be a nurse or are already a professional nurse, this program will benefit you tremendously.
During off-hours, make the most of your time in Ghana by immersing yourself in the local culture. The program includes a two-day trip to Kakum National Park. Want to learn more? Prices start from $1,495 for four weeks, with stays up to eight weeks available. Discover even more about the program here!
Live in an authentic Malagasy Village in central or north Madagascar. Immerse yourself in the culture of this beautiful island country as you provide locals with the proper healthcare they need and deserve. Your main duties will be to assist local professionals with caring for patients and to handle minor ailments and injuries. You’ll also have the wonderful opportunity to assist with pre- and post-natal care to mothers. Your work as a medical volunteer or intern will go a long way in filling the gaps in Madagascar’s rural healthcare network, which suffers from a lack of manpower and resources.
Note your role may be more hands-on if you’re currently in nursing school or working as a nurse. It really depends on your education and experience as to what you’ll be able to do. Want to learn more? The program costs $1,795 for two weeks. Discover even more about the program here.
Kickstart your nursing career with invaluable international experience on a Nursing Internship with Projects Abroad. Nursing Internships are perfect if you’re looking to boost your resume for medical school applications. You’ll also gain unique insights into the healthcare system of a developing country.
During your internship, you’ll learn from skilled local doctors and nurses by observing their work in hospitals, healthcare centers, clinics, and other medical facilities. Depending on where you’re placed, you may even get the opportunity to contribute with hands-on work. Outreach work will give you the opportunity to put your skills to good use. You’ll join a team of professionals and other interns to take healthcare to areas where it’s much needed. Depending on where you are, you’ll assist with activities like HIV testing, measuring blood pressure, measuring blood sugar, raising awareness around malaria, and distributing medication.
Medical Electives and Professional Volunteers
This project is also ideally suited to professionals interested in using their skills to help, as well as college elective students. As a professional, your training and expertise can make an even bigger impact on the local communities we work with. If you are an elective student, Projects Abroad will organize an elective placement where you can learn as much as possible. Nursing internships to look out for include:
- Ghana – experience working in an African country
- Mexico – follow nurses during their ward rounds in Guadalajara
- Nepal – work in several different hospital departments
- Peru – learn about healthcare while brushing up on your Spanish
What Interns Say:
“The placement enabled me to enhance communication, develop new nursing skills, gain a trans-cultural awareness, experience a managerial role and most of all it was very rewarding. I thoroughly recommend that anybody who can, participate in an international elective during his or her program. Not only has it enhanced my career prospects in finding employment as a nurse at home but also it was an eye opening, life-changing and life-affirming adventure!” -Michael, Nursing in Ghana
A Broader View Volunteers Corp (ABV)
A Broader View Volunteers is the second-most reviewed program on Volunteer Forever, with nearly 70 positive reviews for this organization alone. A Broader View Volunteers arranges service programs for medical and nursing students and professionals, with placements in Central and South America, Africa, and Asia.
Our 20 nurses without borders alternative programs are customized to the volunteer group’s backgrounds and needs, with some programs incorporating home visits, health education programs, HIV orphan care, special needs therapy center assistance, and clinics and hospital work.
About A Broader View Volunteers’ Nursing Programs
In Honduras, nursing students and professionals work at a La Ceiba regional hospital. Those volunteers with more experience and training may work directly with patients in emergency care, maternity, pediatrics, HIV awareness, and more.
In Peru, nursing students and professionals may work in a local clinic, regional hospital, hospital specializing in special needs pediatrics, or a burn unit. Professional nurses especially are needed in public health, rehabilitation, and pediatrics, while nursing students may shadow local staff.
In Tanzania, nursing students and professionals may choose between placement in Arusha and Moshi. Programs here focus on public health, women’s health, midwifery, HIV support, and hospice assistance. Volunteers may work in a local clinic, hospital, hospice or nursing care center, or an orphanage for children with HIV.
A Broader View Nursing Project Volunteer Review: Laura
“This trip to Tanzania opened my eyes to a different side of the world and made me so grateful for everything I have in my life – food, clothing, shelter, family, and so much more. It has really made me not take the little things in life for granted and appreciate all that we are lucky to have in the US. Living in the area we did, gave us a true understanding of living in Tanzania. I will never forget the walks down the dirt/rock road we lived on and the adventure of taking the dala-dala to work each day, all with the beautiful view of Mt. Meru in the background. This has been an experience of a [lifetime] and I wouldn’t change a single thing that happened in the trip both good or bad – because either way the memories and stories are irreplaceable.
I brought a lot of snacks with me to eat at the hospital for lunch – this was nice because the doctors and nurses rarely take breaks – you just have to be sure to hide it from them because they will want some of your food! As far as clothing, we had opportunities we couldn’t ever have imagined while we were there, one of which was going to a wedding and the other swimming in the waterfalls at Kilimanjaro. Don’t be afraid to over pack because you never know what you are going to need!
After coming back from Tanzania I remember trying to think of an answer for this question because I figured it would be one I was asked a lot. I still don’t think it is possible to list a favorite memory because we have so many to choose from. Several of my favorite memories stem from handing out dum-dums to children at the hospital, on the street, or at the orphanage and seeing the smile light up on their faces – that was priceless.”
For more than 30 years, Raleigh International has offered volunteer trips for youth and young adults to make a difference in Nepal, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Tanzania. 400,000 travelers have signed up with Raleigh International since its inception, with another 800 going on expeditions this year. With a commitment to quality, sustainability, and support, Raleigh International helped design and currently holds the BS8848 Safety Standard for organizing and managing visits, fieldwork, expeditions, and adventurous activities outside of the UK. If you’re a nurse, a nursing student, or interested in global health, Raleigh International has opportunities for volunteers to help provide access to clean water, improve sanitation, and promote good hygiene practices among vulnerable communities.
One of Raleigh International’s many volunteer expeditions invites you to Tanzania for 5, 7, or 10 weeks to live alongside a rural community and volunteer with initiatives that improve access to clean water, build hygiene awareness through various events, and teach about natural resources and sustainability. Outside of the nurse volunteering opportunities, you will be able to go on a trek to the Southern Highlands and see wild animals and learn about conservation on a visit to Ruaha National Park. Learn more here!
If you have always dreamed of visiting Asia, take a look at Raleigh International’s expedition to a rural village in Nepal, where you will be able to make a positive impact in rebuilding after the 2015 earthquake. This devastating event left 85% of this community’s homes without reliable access to clean water and sanitation – as a volunteer, you will help with digging trenches, laying pipes, and participating in awareness-raising events to improve sanitation and hygiene. In addition to volunteering, you’ll have the opportunity to go hiking in the foothills of the Ganesh Himal mountains. Learn more and sign up here!
International Service Learning (ISL)
International Service Learning (ISL) currently holds a five-star rating on Volunteer Forever, and strives to enhance learning through service experience while providing healthcare and other services in developing communities.
ISL offers practical experience through pre-health, dental, medical, nursing, optometry, pharmacy, physical therapy, public health, and veterinary programs. Placements are available to volunteers that would like to gain experience in the health care or medical field while exploring another culture and providing service to those in need.
About ISL’s Nursing Programs
Nursing teams coordinate with local community organizations to provide healthcare and public health education to underserved populations. This program was created to provide nurses and nursing students with cultural competency in a diverse setting while providing hands-on service.
ISL’s nursing teams may assist with the following:
- Conducting in-home health surveys to determine which medical services are most needed within the community.
- Inviting individuals in need of care to a local clinic where they can get medical assistance from a licensed professional.
- Rotating through patient care at the field clinic, including intake, triage, examination, diagnosis, treatment, and pharmacy.
In Belize, nursing volunteers will deliver medical supplies and provide healthcare services to communities in need.
In Mexico, ISL works in partnership with global health agencies, local health ministries, and other NGOs to serve impoverished and underserved populations in Puerto Peñasco. Nursing volunteers assist in local clinics and in institutional and community health programs.
Fundraising Success Story: Kendra Wold
As of this writing, Kendra Wold has raised $3,620 of her $4,000 goal to volunteer in Peru with ISL’s nursing program there. An aspiring medical missionary, she has fundraised almost entirely through social media and email, with an average of two Facebook posts each week. Kendra also has used her blog at Volunteer Forever, and filled out her profile completely.
On the most important things she did to contribute to her fundraising success:
Being consistent on Facebook was [super important]. Posting pictures with my posts grabbed people’s attention. Also, consistently telling them how much you still need shows people the need and when it starts coming in fast, it becomes contagious and people just are compelled to give because they see others believe in you too.
Fundraising Success Story: Brandi Solomon
Also an ISL volunteer, Brandi Solomon raised more than her $2,000 goal–by the end of her campaign, her friends and family contributed $2,230!
For the past three years, Brandi has conducted toy drives for children and families, and this year she decided to give her time and nursing experience to a community in Costa Rica. Through her volunteer program with ISL, Brandi will provide healthcare services to impoverished families without insurance or access to reliable medical attention.
ISL Nursing Project Volunteer Review: Kiran
ISL provided me my first experience with humanitarian work abroad and I was immersed into the culture/people. It was much more than I had expected. It was hand-on experience, working one-on-one with patients and within small groups – I learned to assess and diagnose under Dr. Conarado (team leader) using solely signs and symptoms – only 20% of the time do they use diagnostic procedures to diagnose.
Where I come from, we rely heavily on technology and diagnostic procedures. It was a great experience to work in an environment without technology. You will assess and learn using basic knowledge and techniques. The program facilitates critically thinking and you will become confident and independent.
FYI: individuals in Nicaragua choose to become a physician merely due to their passion to serve the people. It surprises me that a doctor is not well paid and it isn’t as prestigious to be a doctor as it is in Canada/USA. They work around the clock and are required to have several positions. The doctors are too amazing/very inspiring – words cannot even describe all they do.
Furthermore, the individuals I met on my team during this trip were unbelievable. 14 students, 14 days together…we became family. I actually felt like I had known them for ages. The experiences that you will share with your group will be very unique. Saying good-bye and leaving the country was very difficult.
ISL staff is incredible (e.g. translators, team leader, [physicians], coordinators etc…). They plan wicked activities such as, volcano tours, ziplining, Apoyo Lagoon. Travel, serve and enjoy!! I stayed an extra week, backpacking in Nicaragua, and they made sure that I was set and safe. They go out of their way for you. Very humble <3
I highly recommend the program!! It will help you grow as an individual, open your eyes to a whole new world. Guaranteed that your experience will be an unforgettable one.
United Planet connects volunteers with communities in 35 countries, where they learn, teach, work, engage, and immerse themselves in a culture outside their comfort zone.
About United Planet’s Nursing Programs
United Planet offers hospital and healthcare clinic placements for doctors, nurses, and medical, nursing, and pre-med students. Programs are available for nurses in Ghana, Ecuador, Peru, and Tanzania, where they may help local clinic staff with minor procedures and daily tasks.
In Ghana, nursing volunteers work at either a teaching hospital in Ho or at a community health center in Putubiw. Volunteers mainly observe local staff through this program, though depending on background experience, may have the opportunity to perform basic medical assistance like dressing wounds and checking vitals.
In Peru, volunteers are placed with health clinics, state and private hospitals, psychiatric clinics, and a center for mentally and physically disabled children in Cusco. Volunteers primarily observe local professionals on this program, but depending on experience, may have the opportunity to assist with basic medical tasks. On United Planet Peru’s Healthcare Quest program, volunteers may assist with first aid, paperwork, hygiene education, taking vitals, and more.
In Ecuador, nursing volunteers may work in a state-run hospital in Quito to assist with their work in primary care and emergency medicine for women. The Healthcare Quest program also provides volunteers with the opportunity to visit a traditional medicine clinic in an indigenous village outside of the capital. Specific projects assigned to nursing volunteers vary depending on background and expertise, though the main focus of this program is observation.
Vida Volunteer Travel places volunteers alongside local healthcare professionals worldwide to give free medical, dental, and veterinary care to communities in need. Many of Vida’s volunteers are pre-health professionals, though they also welcome advanced students and professionals. Vida currently has a five-star rating from volunteer reviewers on Volunteer Forever.
About Vida’s Nursing Programs
Vida’s medical program invites pre-med, medical, and nursing students–as well as other volunteers interested in medicine–to work with underserved communities throughout Central America. Vida offers public health screenings, free medical care, free medications, and health education. This program teaches volunteers to provide medical care in low-income areas, and educates participants in the difference between U.S. and Latin American healthcare services through one-on-one, hands-on volunteer work with local medical staff.
According to Vida’s website, hands-on work can include:
- First-hand experience in Latin American healthcare systems compared to those in the United States.
- 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.
Volunteer Review: Erica Miller
Medical Program: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala
“I cannot say enough good words about my experiences with Vida! I participated on two trips with Vida- one to Costa Rica and Nicaragua and more recently my trip to Guatemala. Both trips were beyond amazing and I learned SO much!
Vida is a perfect opportunity for anyone who is interested in the medical field and does not require any previous knowledge related to medicine- they teach you everything you need to know! Both of my trips were two weeks long and consisted of six clinical days. On those days, students worked together with a few other students and a translator to interview the patients, [assess] vital signs and listen to heart and lung sounds. Then we presented the information to the doctors who helped us determine the correct diagnosis and treatment.
The medical and monetary donations we brought as a group stocked our “pharmacy” so that we could provide much needed medical help to our patients at no cost to them. While most students know little the first few clinical days, it’s amazing how much everyone learns and knows by the last few clinical days thanks to the awesome doctors and their wonderful teaching!! The doctors and staff are incredible and are truly dedicated to the volunteers.
We weren’t deserted after our clinical days- rather most doctors and translators would hang out with us at the hotel, go out to dinner, walk around town etc. which helped the entire group become really close with each other and the staff. To this day, I still keep in contact with staff members from my first Vida trip two years ago!
I also really appreciated how we had non-clinical days dedicated to exploring the culture we were immersed in- something I think is essential to better understand the patient population we were working with. Without hesitation, I would recommend Vida to anyone interested in healthcare! It clearly benefits the volunteers immensely, and more importantly provides much needed healthcare to impoverished communities. Thanks Vida!”
Work the World
Work the World offers dedicated global health internships and rotations to undergraduate students and college students who want to gain important practical experience, help supply medical assistance to those living in underprivileged areas, and gain an in-depth understanding of how basic healthcare can be delivered with extremely limited resources.
Through Work the World’s programs in Africa, Asia, and South America, participants can engage in international medical internships, elective rotations, and volunteer opportunities for students seeking valuable working experience.
About Work the World’s Nursing Programs
Work the World’s nursing interns assist in clinics visited by patients with critically advanced diseases and pathologies; the goal with this program is to gain an understanding of how these diseases progress and how to treat them. Internships are available in Ghana, Mauritius, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania. All internships are tailored to the participant’s individual background and requirements, with most nursing interns focusing on pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and emergency medicine.
The basic internship program also can be extended to include:
Village Healthcare Experience: Nursing interns assist in patient assessment and learn traditional healthcare practices in rural villages in Ghana, Nepal, the Philippines, or Tanzania.
In Sri Lanka, nursing interns are tasked with helping combat rare diseases and assist with general medicine, surgery, obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, orthopedics, psychiatry, cardiology, oncology, neurosurgery, and emergency and trauma. Interns also may participate in the Ayurvedic Medicine Experience, where they may work with an Ayurvedic doctor in a rural Sri Lankan village.
In the Philippines, interns may assist in a large hospital or through community outreach and education programs in Iloilo. A smaller hospital placement and community education programs also are available in Dumaguete. In addition to the basic nursing internship, participants may take part in the Village Healthcare Experience, assisting with patient assessment and learning traditional healthcare practices in a rural village.
In Mauritius, nursing internships can include adult nursing, pediatric nursing, mental health nursing, or a combination, depending on the participant’s background and interest.
Fundraising Success Story: Sanam Amiri
Last year, Sanam Amiri raised more than $3,000 for her nursing project with Work the World at the Amana Regional Referral Hospital in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
She began her fundraising campaign by emailing her close friends and family to tell them about her trip–it was throughout these two weeks that she was able to fundraise the most. Later, she shared her profile on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, making sure to only update a few times to avoid spamming her network.
Sanam’s advice to other fundraisers:
I think it’s really important to constantly think of new ways to share your story and spread awareness! Talk to your school, classmates and friends and find fun ways to fundraise together! I am holding a fundraiser in a few months with all of my friends and think it’ll be the best way to raise some money, bring awareness about mental health and have fun with friends! It’s also really important to stay positive and be confident in your campaign! It can be easy to get discouraged and feel like you won’t reach your goal but continue to be optimistic!! It’s the best way to successful reach your target goal 🙂
Through Connect-123’s customized travel opportunities, you can focus on a wide variety of fields, including healthcare, human rights, social work, and much more. Wherever you travel to, you’ll work with a local organization – whether it’s a school, hospital, nonprofit, or other group – and you’re invited to apply year-round. If you’re interested in a volunteer project or internship in nursing or healthcare, check out Connect-123’s placements below!
One opportunity available right now for nursing students and professionals invites you to Cape Town, South Africa, where you can learn about the country’s healthcare system and lend a hand in a hospital, clinic, research institute, or with a private health practitioner.
Connect-123 also offers medical and healthcare volunteer programs in Cape Town, where you can play a role in clinical healthcare or public health programs. Click here to apply!
Another great nursing abroad program abroad for nurses and students is the medical and healthcare internship in Argentina. On this internship, you will learn about South America’s unique medical challenges while also working alongside local nurses and doctors in a large hospital. Another internship placement with Connect-123 gives you the chance to work with a foundation treating conditions such as cancer, HIV, neurological disorders, and other issues. Learn more and apply here!
To Sum It Up
As you can see, nursing programs abroad can be excellent opportunities to expand your skill sets—no matter where you are in your nursing career—to travel the world, and to serve those individuals and families that otherwise might not have reliable medical care. From observation, to direct care, to education, there’s no shortage of nursing programs worldwide to choose from.
Ready to go? Create a profile, find the perfect program for you, and start fundraising for your experience abroad! Big heart, but little wallet? Check out our list of affordable volunteer placements around the world!
P.S. If you’re still looking for a volunteer opportunity, check out our list of best volunteer abroad programs and recommended volunteer projects in Africa, Central America, and Thailand. You can also read about 7 Great Medical and Veterinary Volunteer Abroad Projects, 10 Dental Volunteer Abroad Program and Medical Mission Tips for Pre Dental Students, and nursing volunteer abroad projects for students and nurse professionals. Or, if medical volunteer projects aren’t for you, be sure to read about our sports and coaching volunteer abroad, wildlife conservation and veterinary abroad, teach abroad, and intern abroad programs. Lastly, if you’re under 18, you may be interested in a teen volunteer abroad program from one of our many great partners.