For physicians working in the United States, the prospect of practicing medicine abroad can be both exciting and daunting.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that moving overseas to work as a physician is not a paid vacation. There is often extra work involved on top of practicing medicine: cultural challenges like language barriers, navigating an unfamiliar healthcare system, and staying connected to friends, family, and colleagues back home. Often, physicians from the United States who are working abroad experience a lack of control surrounding their schedules. Additionally, they may find themselves practicing in an area with a high level of patient need and at a significantly lower salary compared with their US counterparts.

However, many physicians find working abroad to be an incredibly rewarding experience. Prior to making a move, physicians should connect with new colleagues already working in the country they will be moving to. This allows for communication about things like the lifestyle in that country, tax obligations, any major challenges to be aware of, as well as specific things to pack.

Keeping in touch with colleagues at home is also a good idea. Finding a job when returning to the United States can be challenging and speaking to others who have made the transition can be helpful.

Another point to consider is how to go actually find employment. Locum tenens or placement agencies can help match physicians with open positions abroad. In addition to job placement, locum tenens agencies can offer things like housing and transportation to ease the transition.

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To be placed in or accept a position abroad, there are a number of criteria that may need to be met. Depending on the desired placement locale, physicians can expect to need a valid medical license, a resume, a passport, photos for a visa application, professional references, a physical examination, and a background check. The process of gaining these credentials and finding a placement abroad can take anywhere from a few months to half a year, so it is best to begin the process well in advance.

Working abroad as a physician can be incredibly rewarding. In addition to gaining the experience and insight that practicing medicine in a new culture can provide, it offers an opportunity to explore a new culture. With support from agencies as well as from fellow physicians who have made the change, moving abroad to practice medicine can be a viable and rewarding option.

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Reference

Noriega C. Working abroad as a doctor: What to know before you go. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318062.php. July 21, 2017. Accessed July 22, 2018.

This article originally appeared on Medical Bag