Nursing is one of the most demanding fields out there and as such, studying to become a nurse is very difficult. These demands cause some people to believe that they cannot take advantage of abroad opportunities. This is not so! The world is brimming with chances for nursing students to intern abroad and learn about foreign health care systems and services. Nursing students can travel all over the world, for a semester, a summer, or a short-term intern stint to hone their skills, help others, and learn more along the way.
Photo credit: Pacific Air Forces
Generally speaking, with nursing internships you can go to a program that rotates placements or one with a specific focus. Both can be for as little as two weeks or as long as a semester; it all depends on which program you choose.
- Split Placements: These are the internships where you rotate through different parts of a hospital abroad. You might spend two weeks as an ER nurse, and then shift to pediatrics. With these programs you can get a greater knowledge of the health care system in a particular country as a whole although you might not be able to work on specific skill sets as much as a program specific to one type of nursing.
- Pediatrics: Pediatric nursing internships are a popular stop on split placements but also in their own right. These nurses work specifically with children with various medical diseases and complications. Even if you do not speak the native language fluently, you will be able to help care for a child in need and maybe brighten his or her day.
- Emergency Medicine (ER): Emergency medicine is another popular type of nursing internship. ER nurses all over the world need to be able to think and react fast to help those in their care. Interning as a nurse will allow you to see many different kinds of medical injuries, diseases, and complications that you may not necessarily see in your home country. Be prepared for a fast-paced environment where you will learn a great deal.
- Obstetrics and Gynecology: Much of this type of nursing is in the labor or maternity wards of a hospital. As an intern you could get the chance to help with or observe natural births, caesarean sections, and care for the babies and mothers after the child has been born.
- HIV Care: Some programs will have the opportunity for you to intern in HIV units or in an HIV clinic. Not only will you be helping to treat those with HIV, you will often be asked to help with awareness campaigns and talks with the local community
- Thailand: Thailand is a popular destination for many things, from honeymoons to studying abroad, but it is one of the top places to intern abroad for nursing students. Chang Mai, in Northern Thailand is particularly popular. You will be able to start rotations observing and then maybe move into helping local doctors and nurses.
- Nepal: Nepal is a country that offers many opportunities for nursing interns. The land of Everest is cold, beautiful, and offers a unique perspective on healthcare. Nursing interns here can work with disabled children, elderly patients, and those suffering from illness not common in the western world. Nepalese language skills are not necessary but some programs do offer intensive courses.
- Mexico: Some schools and larger organizations have lots of opportunities to intern in Mexico. For many of these programs you will have to have at least intermediate Spanish skills. Some programs will offer Spanish Language courses to assist you while you are interning there. Interns in Mexico can be in both urban and rural hospitals throughout the country.
- Honduras: Honduras is another developing country, so nursing interns there will learn how hospitals and healthcare there differ from their home country. Much like Mexico, basic or intermediate Spanish skills are required to have a position at a hospital in Honduras. Interns can work in many different areas including anesthetics, obstetrics and gynecology, as well as HIV awareness programs.
- Ghana: Ghana is a nation known for friendliness. As an intern in Ghana you’ll get a chance to work in many different fields of nursing. Interns can intern in areas like emergency medicine, pediatrics, and HIV/AIDS wards and clinics. As an intern you can be placed in different cities or rural towns depending on the program and your interests.
When and Where to Look for an Internship:
As any nursing student knows, you have a lot of work ahead of you when you start a nursing program, so if you want to do an internship abroad, it’s best to plan this early on in your academic career. It isn’t absolutely necessary, but it will certainly make your life easier.
Most programs won’t let you just hop right in with less than a year’s experience so you usually won’t be interning as a freshman, or sophomore for that matter. Many nursing students intern over the summer, or during their junior or senior year.
The best place to start looking for an internship is right within your nursing department. Due to the rigidity of many nursing programs, your school will be best equipped to get a program that works for you, and many times schools have relationships with schools or hospitals within a specific country. This is especially true if you are looking to do a specific kind of internship like pediatrics or anesthetics.
Each specific field in nursing has it’s own international organization, all of which cannot be fully discussed here, but the largest over-arching; international organization for all types of nurses is the International Council of Nurses. This organization counts over one hundred countries in its membership and seeks to advances nursing standards and practices around the world. They hold a Congress once every two years in various cities around the world.