For those studying medicine, internships abroad have long been a luxury that only those with excess time and resources could experience. However, times are changing. Bursaries and grants from colleges and charity organisations are making the process increasingly accessible to any medic, whatever your context and circumstance.
But is a medical internship abroad still a luxury add-on to your degree, or does their increase in availability indicate they’re becoming a necessity?
This blog will focus on the benefits of medicine internships abroad, and these are necessary in becoming the medic you’ve aspired to be.
EXPAND YOUR WORLDVIEw
Perceiving the different ways developing countries provide health care will challenge beliefs you’ve acquired in the western world — whether you’re mixing ancient herbal remedies in Sri Lanka, or assisting in a rural Maasai clinic with limited resources.
You’ll develop a new empathy for cultural traditions and ways of practising that sit outside of, or even directly contrast, your frame of reference. Not only will you become more grateful for what you have access to in the US, but you’ll begin to challenge yourself and develop professionally as a result.
‘My internship in Nepal was definitely eye-opening. I became much more appreciative of the basic care we believe all people are entitled to, regardless of their pay. I feel so privileged to have been able to experience the Nepalese culture, and see how society viewed medicine and the human body’ - Progga Saha
‘My surgical rotation was the first that I had experienced and I found it endlessly fascinating. I was constantly probing the surgeons, anesthetists, nurses and technicians about everything.’ – Edward Spraggon
The next benefit to taking your medical internship abroad involves navigating a language barrier. While this might not seem like a particularly exciting prospect, it frequently endows our students with a greater sense of confidence when communicating with patients back at home. It also makes you more aware of the extent nonverbal communication and body language play in patient interaction, stretching your interpersonal skills.
‘Patients do not need words in order to be comforted; body language can be enough. Don’t be afraid to be proactive and involved; everyone is human regardless of cultural and language differences!’ – Tasha Patel
‘I have learnt so much from my medical placement with Work the World and there are many things that I will take away from this experience. I feel more confident in myself to see patients from different walks of life and the language barrier has been tough but has also enabled me to think outside the box when communicating with the patients’. – Kalaichelvy Manoharan
‘Just being present and talking to them - we knew the words for ‘breathe’ etc - made a difference, and the women really bounced off of that. We weren't saying much, we were literally just present and rubbing their backs every now and again, which relaxed them in a way they were not used to.’ – Ellenia Tumini
It goes without saying that hospital internships abroad look impressive on the résumé. While there’s no guarantee it will land you a job, you’ll be sure to have something concrete to talk about in interviews. That time you opted to spend a week on a remote Philippine island learning basic healthcare? That demonstrates both curiosity and cultural awareness, two things you’d be unlikely to pick up at home.
In fact, a study taken in 2013 revealed that ‘... graduates who studied abroad as part of their degreeare 24 percentage points more likely to find employment 3 years following graduation relative to theirnon-mobile peers.’ (Di Pietro, 2013).
One of our former students who now works with a global health charity said...
“An internship abroad stands out on your CV as a badge of durability, resourcefulness, and cross-cultural aptitude. It says you’ve seen, and experienced things unknowable in places like the US,Australia, or the UK. It says you’ve solved problems and debated ethics that are simply taken forgranted at home. It says that you've earned something few others have. Work the World prepare youin innumerable ways to be a better clinician and a better citizen of our planet - employers knowthis.” - John Hansen Brevetti
A NETWORK OF CONTACTS
You’re going to meet a broad bunch of people on your medical internship abroad, which is a good thing! From the international students you’ll live with to the patients and specialists you interact with regularly in the hospital, it’s sure to be a diverse experience.
Not only will you learn how to interact with people from all walks of life, but you’ll share memories with them that will last a lifetime. The connections you make with these people lay the foundation for, or contribute to, your international network of professionals.
‘Two other midwives and myself became very close as we were working with each other every day. There was so much to take in, with almost everything being different from what we were used to at home. You just have to accept what you see — some of which will be great, like the resourcefulness of staff, and some of which will be quite upsetting. Talking about this after work really helped me to process every day and take the experience as it came, a day at a time.’ – Ellenia Tumini
Last but not least, the skill you’re bound to grow in is confidence – meaning you don’t have to be the world’s most confident medic to reap the benefits of an overseas internship. While you will naturally increase in confidence over the duration of your course, deciding to step out of your comfort zone forges a different type of courage.
‘Working in the General Medicine Department in the hospital was a priceless experience. I was quite nervous on my first day on the wards, as I did not know what to expect and how different it would be compared to Ireland or Malaysia. I learned the most during ward rounds as the doctors made me feel like a part of the team. We discussed the management of the patients together and they really valued any input I provided, which built my confidence and knowledge while I was there.’ – Nurzakiah Mohd Zaki
If you’ve made it this far, you’re ready to take the first step towards an overseas internship. Read more about our medical internships abroad, or call us to chat through your options.