If you have a passion to serve others through health care and education, medical volunteering is one of the best ways to care for communities and individuals all over the world. Medical volunteer programs overseas eagerly accept enthusiastic applicants with a wide range of experience, so whether you are an aspiring doctor, a current student, or a healthcare professional, there is a placement waiting for you.
Summer is a great time to volunteer and to help you get started on your search to find the perfect program, Go Overseas has selected 10 of the best medical volunteer programs. We've highlighted programs that address specific areas of health and medicine to help guide you. Though each program features different projects, requirements, and lengths, the opportunities in this list will help you find a great match for your interests and expertise.
These programs are all currently running for summer 2021. Be sure to check entry requirements for your country of choice and whether proof of the Covid-19 vaccine and/or Covid tests are needed prior to arrival.
Top Medical Volunteer Programs
We've chosen the following programs based on their positive reviews from verified participants and have categorized them by what they have to offer. By highlighting important points such as program length, patient populations you'll gain experience working with, and the skills you can learn, prospective volunteers can better decide the kind of opportunity that will best benefit their future careers.
- Best for Assisted Living Care: Maximo Nivel in Costa Rica
- Best for Clinical Shadowing: EcuaExperience in Ecuador
- Best for Hands-on Training: Volunteering Solutions in Peru
- Best for Clinical Rotations: Fundación Aldeas de Paz in the Dominican Republic
- Best for EMTs: United Hatzalah Colombia
- Best for Rural Health: Mobile Clinic Project in Uganda with Ssamba Foundation
- Best for Dentistry: Global Dental Relief in Kenya
- Best for Experience in Low Resource Areas: A Broader View Volunteers Corp in Peru
- Best for Health Research: Virtual Global Health Fellowship with Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children
Best for Assisted Living Care: Maximo Nivel in Costa Rica
- Length: Placements run from 1-5 weeks, though the program recommends at least 2 weeks for a full experience.
- Patient populations: the elderly, HIV patients
- Skills you could gain: taking vitals, patient record management, general assessment, public health education
Maximo Nivel’s medical volunteering program in Costa Rica upholds their longstanding sterling reputation for safe, fun, and meaningful overseas experiences. While Costa Rica has universal health care for its citizens, low funding and large populations mean access to quality care and resources is low, and volunteers can provide much-needed services.
You’ll have the opportunity to learn about the health care system in this country as you support experts in the field during hospital rounds or as you help with vaccination programs in clinics or provide care in assisted living facilities.
Maximo Nivel is committed to providing a custom placement fitted to your experience, and depending on your level of expertise, you may be given more responsibilities and direct contact with patients in the field.
Here are a few highlights from past volunteers:
- “During my time in Costa Rica doing my medical program, I have had the best time. You get to learn so much, make life-long friendships, be provided with endless support, and make a difference.” – Ebonie
- “I worked alongside nurses and doctors in a retirement home and learned so much! As a nursing student, I felt the medical project really helped me become eager to learn more about healthcare.” – Isabella
- “Spending three weeks with Maximo doing medical volunteering has been a massive eye-opener. I have learnt so much from the country and the people.” – Nadia
Best for Clinical Shadowing: EcuaExperience in Ecuador
- Length: Placements are fixed and run for either 18 or 28 days.
- Patient populations: patients needing surgical intervention, general hospital admissions across different wards
- Skills you could gain: blood draws, suturing wounds, clinical observation
With an overall rating of 9.72 and 231 reviews on Go Overseas, EcuaExperience offers a combination of clinical shadowing, volunteering, and traveling for a cultural and vocational exchange like no other. Medical student volunteers can shadow experts in a wide variety of pre-med, pre-dental, biomed, and physio specialties. In addition to rotations in everything from internal medicine to obstetrics, volunteers have the chance to get outside and explore Ecuador’s natural wonders through guided activities that include rappelling down waterfalls and tubing in the Amazon.
EcuaExperience programs are fixed in length, making them a little less flexible than other offerings, but volunteers are guaranteed over sixty hours of hands-on training, and if you travel with a friend or two, you can earn 10% off your trip.
Here are what previous volunteers said about their time:
- “I witnessed procedures (multiple surgeries) and learned skills that I wouldn't have until third year of medical school here in Canada. I would absolutely recommend this program to anyone who's considering working in the medical field.” – Shahrzad
- “The 18-day Ecuador trip had changed my perspective on life, I learned a lot as a pre-med student and as a person. I 100% recommend anyone who is adventurous and wants a glimpse of what being a medical professional looks like.” – Brittany
- “Signing up for Ecuaexperience was by far one of the best decisions I have ever made. The medical rotations were amazing and helped solidify my desire to enter into a career in health care.” – Elana
Best for Hands-on Training: Volunteering Solutions in Peru
Please note: The Covid-19 vaccine is required for participaton in this volunteer program.
- Length: Most programs through Volunteering Solutions run for 1-24 weeks.
- Patient populations: anyone presenting to the local clinic
- Skills you could gain: taking vitals, suturing wounds, giving vaccinations, patient record management, minor uncomplicated treatments
All levels of medical experience are welcome to join in the daily activities of working health care professionals with Volunteering Solutions in Peru. The extensive diversity of patients and cases is intentional and designed to help you identify which health care areas you are most interested in. If you’re just beginning, don’t worry—responsibilities and placements are based on your experience so you’re always comfortably challenged but not overwhelmed.
Whether you are interested in radiology, maternal health, or public health, there is much work to be done in Peru to improve the lives of individuals. You’ll have the chance to work hard during the week and live like a local and explore on the weekends.
Here are what past volunteers have said about their time:
- “I highly recommend students who study medicine, nursing or dentistry to apply for this program because it will enhance your academic level and also will give you the opportunity to make new friends and learn more about new cultures.” – Hussein
- “The program itself was great, the staff there are super friendly and they will allow you to participate in as many things as you feel comfortable, as well as teach you that which you do not know. I vaccinated, shadowed doctors, did triage, and more.” – Andres
- “The experience was incredible as the healthcare team were extremely eager to train you and allow you to see many patients.” – Nicoleta
Best for Clinical Rotations: Fundación Aldeas de Paz in the Dominican Republic
- Length: Time commitments can be as short as 2 weeks, but if you have little experience going in, the program recommends going for at least 4 weeks or more.
- Patient populations: pediatrics, obstetrics, chronic disease, and more across neighborhood clinics and hospitals
- Skills you could gain: assisting doctors with exams and minor procedures, pharmacy management, ambulance support, public health education,hospital administration
Gain medical experience and learn the realities of medicine in developing countries through hands-on work with Fundación Aldeas de Paz in the Dominican Republic. Your placement will depend on where you are in your medical education, but as long as you have initiative and enthusiasm, there is a perfect assignment waiting for you.
Here’s some highlights from past volunteers:
- “Although it was a short five weeks, I learned so much during my stay. Along with really experiencing the difference of health care that is found in Dominican Republic, as well as for the first time experiencing what it is like to teach, I learned a lot about myself and the culture of the Dominican Republic.” – Maya
- “Prior to coming, I had very little experience in nursing, so I was eager to see what my work in the hospital would consist of. Rather than working in one specific area, I was able to experience many different areas of the hospital, which allowed me to see and learn an immense amount.” – Julianna
- “The advantage of being a volunteer with Aldeas de Paz is that you can profit from numerous contacts which could help you, for instance, if you want to initiate a new project. Moreover, our coordinators in Samaná were always available for our problems and very supportive.” – Lennart
Best for EMTs: United Hatzalah Colombia
- Length: Volunteers have the opportunity to gain 200 hours of training over a month-long period.
- Patient population: those needing emergency medical care
- Skills you could gain: pre-hospital support and care, basic firefighter training
If you’re interested in learning through fast-paced real-world experience, United Hatzalah Colombia offers medical volunteers a unique opportunity to gain an international first responder certification by training them to attend to emergencies on their iconic motorbike ambulances.
Pre-hospital care is the emphasis of this program, and you’ll provide assistance to festivals and join search and rescue efforts in the highlands of Colombia. In addition to medical skills, you’ll learn Spanish inside a healthcare context that will enhance your ability to serve patients day to day.
United Hatzalah Colombia prides itself on arriving at accidents in 3 minutes or less across the entire country, and their presence is well established. Past medical volunteers have nothing but good things to say about their time with the program, which has a 100% approval rating from 46 reviewers.
Here is what some previous volunteers had to say:
- “There was so much to do and see it was such a cool experience. From responding to traffic accidents to participating in rescue operations, there never really was a dull moment here. It was so cool to have the privilege to participate in this and I hope you are able to do the same!” – Rob
- “The experience itself was absolutely fantastic, giving me a really great taste of what being an EMT is like. It was such a great trip and has now convinced me to get into that line of work back home.”–Miles
- “It was so great being able to respond to real life emergencies and safe lives in such a unique setting. I really enjoyed learning tons of medical terminology in Spanish, definitely a really great skill to take back with me to the United States.”–Matthew
Best for Rural Health: Mobile Clinic Project in Uganda with Ssamba Foundation
- Length: Programs run from 4-12 weeks all year round.
- Patient populations: children and adults in rural areas
- Skills you could gain: wound care, public health education (malaria)
The Ssamba Foundation emphasizes community and health care projects, customizing placements for individuals based on experience and interest. Through Ssamba’s mobile clinic project, medical volunteers give care to people in remote rural areas of the Mukono district and to those who can’t afford treatment.
This incredible learning experience that helps improve the living standard of local people has a 100% rating on Go Overseas, receiving the highest scores for fun and value.
Here are some highlights from reviews:
- “It’s honestly hard to describe accurately in words my time at the hospital in Mukono—it was an incredible learning experience. From the moment I landed in Uganda, I felt very welcome and medical staff was so helpful.”–Natálie
- "From the first day you could really take charge of your own experience.”–Michele
- “Volunteering in Uganda was truly an amazing experience. Absolutely loved everything about the organization and would recommend it to everyone, regardless of where you're from or what you do for a living, they are affordable and very grassroots.”–Herbert
Best for Dentistry: Global Dental Relief in Kenya
- Length: Clinic placements run for two weeks at a time.
- Patient populations: children in underserved areas
- Skills you could gain: fluoride treatments, sterilization, patient record management
No dental experience needed to volunteer with Global Dental Relief! In a country with only about 1,000 dentists for a population of 40 million, medical volunteers are needed to help bring quality dental care and hygiene education to underprivileged children. Each project is designed for 13-18 volunteers, and during a week-long clinic, you'll make an immediate difference in the lives of over 500 children.
In addition to the clinic, a multi-day safari trip is included, so volunteers will have the chance to explore the natural beauty of Kenya before returning home. Global Dental Relief has a 100% rating on Go Overseas, and more than 43% percent of volunteers return to volunteer again within 3 years.
Below is a selection from reviews left by past volunteers:
- “The dentists and staff were great teachers and helped me ease into the position. I was deeply moved by the students we served. The need in Kenya is great and we were able to serve hundreds of students. GDR is doing marvelous work and I intend to join another trip.” – Chuck
- “I learned that dental care is a powerful way to make an immediate difference in the lives of these children. I thought that I was going to help kids, but I realized that I got so much more out of the volunteer experience. I can’t wait to go back again!” – Patti
- “It was such an amazing experience for me, and really solidified my resolve for wanting to enter this profession. I was able to take part in everything from fluoride and sterilization to chairside assisting. ” – Maya
Best for Experience in Low Resource Areas: A Broader View Volunteers Corp in Peru
- Length: A Broader View takes volunteers year-round with placements lasting from 1-12 weeks.
- Patient populations: children, adults, and the elderly
- Skills you could gain: postpartum hospital care, public health education, clinical observation (surgeries), direct patient care in elderly care centers
Take your medical volunteering to Cusco, home to Machu Picchu, with A Broader View Volunteers Corp. Like other developing countries, Peru struggles with high poverty rates, especially in cities like Cusco, which means there are many opportunities for medical volunteers to step in and make an impact on these communities through medical, nursing, and dental care. A Broader View tailors its programs to fit the experience and interests of its volunteers so there are a range of opportunities available.
With perfect scores for support and safety, this program is a good, reliable choice.
Here are some words from those who know firsthand:
- “I loved my Peru medical volunteer experience. It was a great way for me to go out of my comfort zone and experience a new country! Volunteering in the clinic was so rewarding and was a great way to be truly immersed in the culture! I would definitely do it again!” – Rosa
- “My experience as a medical volunteer in Peru was beyond the power of words to describe; it changed my life, and my outlook on life, permanently.” – Mellone
- “I always had something to do in town and the time flew by. Volunteering in Peru has taught me so much about different cultures, mentality, values, and way of life. My program in the clinic was exactly what I wanted to do.” – Graziella
Best for Short-term Volunteering: Vida Volunteer in Guatemala
- Length: Placements are 9, 11, or 13 days long, and unlike other programs in this list, they only run on specific dates, so be sure to schedule your spot in advance.
- Patient populations: people or animals, depending on your preference
- Skills you could gain: depending on the path chosen, various basic, hands-on patient care procedures for people and animals
Promote health and ensure a long-lasting impact on lives of people (and even pets!) with Vida Volunteer in Guatemala. As a medical volunteer, you’ll have the chance to develop both intercultural and leadership skills while you serve others and work on diverse cases ranging from general health conditions to specific diseases manifesting in Central America.
Whether you choose an emphasis on medical, dental, or veterinary care, you will work side by side with local physicians to diagnose, treat, and educate, acquiring medical skills through immersive training in cultural and clinical settings.
Vida Volunteer’s world-famous homestays ensure a warm welcome and stay for all medical volunteers.
Here are some insights from past volunteers:
- “It has left me motivated to want a career in medicine and has left me wanting to go back on another medical trip with Vida. The memories I made during this trip will last a life time and Vida is definitely worth recommending to a friend.” — Shaili
- “I was able to practice and learn, and affirmed my belief that I would like to pursue a career in dentistry. The dental doctors went above and beyond to support the dental students, ensuring to answer all and any questions we had, and provided amazing demonstrations.” — Aoife
- “This trip is a great experience for students looking for experience! The purpose and the work we do involved in this organization is absolutely incredible and once in a lifetime opportunity.” – Emily
Best for Health Research: Virtual Global Health Fellowship with Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children
- Length: Programs run in 4-week blocks.
- Patient populations: clinical case study from an underserved area
- Skills you could gain: monitoring and evaluating development work, knowledge of social determinants of health, chronic diseases, and environmental issues, and clinical observation
Take your medical skills to the next level without leaving the comfort of your home with FIMRC’s Virtual Global Health Fellowship! Tackling a different health topic every week, you’ll gain global health experience and contribute to research and expanding efforts to bring care to populations all over the globe. Fellows will also attend virtual clinic observations and case studies.
This program is relatively new on the scene, but if you are skeptical about the value of a virtual medical program, FIMRC has received a 100% rating on Go Overseas, and all the reviewers are nothing but highly enthusiastic about their experience.
Here’s some of what they had to say:
- “They had shadowing opportunities which really gave a taste of what telemedicine is like and would help future practitioners get used to the changes in the delivery of healthcare.” – Jemima
- “I also gained clinical experience through the shadowing and case study discussions. The program being virtual did not take away from the learning experience. It was so well developed that it felt like learning in person.” – Aylin
- “The Virtual Global Health Fellowship really helped me to open my eyes on the world surrounding me and I am extremely grateful for this opportunity. I know for a fact that all the information I have learned will not only be helpful for my future studies and career, but also in order to be more aware of the situations and differences of different peoples all around the globe.” – Britany
Make a Difference This Year
Healthcare volunteering overseas is a great way to build up your medical skills and gain international experience as you touch the lives of patients all over the globe. The medical volunteering organizations and programs listed above can help you find just the right place to volunteer. Let this be the year you define your future medical career and change how you see your place in a global community.
This article was originally published in December 2019, and it was updated in June 2021.