Nursing Abroad: What You Need to Know

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A nurse prepares to give a patient an injection.

Working as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) gives individuals the unique opportunity to make a positive impact on patients’ lives. However, APRNs are not limited to careers in the U.S. They work around the world, taking part in short- and long-term immersion experiences for a better understanding of global health needs.

International nursing opportunities provide APRNs with the chance to grow as individuals, increase their understanding of multicultural care and assist other countries that are struggling with healthcare workforce shortages. In some cases, nurses take advantage of these travel opportunities while they are pursuing higher education in nursing. In other cases, they pursue overseas employment.

Such experiences are particularly relevant for APRNs who wish to advance their practice skills by pursuing Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees to become healthcare leaders and improve health outcomes around the world. Global nursing leadership continues to evolve to respond to changing healthcare needs around the world. As global citizens, APRNs who train or work overseas bring a unique perspective to care delivery, cultural awareness and equity.

Nursing Opportunities Abroad

Nursing professionals are in short supply around the globe. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports the world will need about 9 million more nurses and midwives by 2030. This projection presents significant opportunities for nursing professionals interested in working abroad in any of a wide range of countries, from developed nations to economically struggling ones.

Some of the leading overseas nursing positions allow for learning opportunities that apply to all facets of health care. The following are some opportunities for nurses who hope to work overseas:

Short-Term Global Immersion

Several leading universities provide opportunities for students to explore other cultures and begin addressing the emerging healthcare challenges that come with globalization. These educational programs can increase students’ cultural competence, sensitivity to underserved populations and general awareness of national health problems. They can help students understand how to approach health care from a global perspective and deliver care in a more culturally responsive way.

Duquesne University students who participate in the school’s study abroad experience in Rome or Dublin explore the impact of globalization on health care and health care planning and the global response to diverse cultural needs.

Volunteer Abroad

More than 1 billion people worldwide lack access to basic health care because there are no health care workers to provide assistance. Several nonprofit organizations, such as the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, pair nurses with in-need agencies and communities.

International Traveling Nurse

The World Health Organization predicts that the highest need for nurses in the near future will be in Africa and southeast Asia. Many traveling nurses opt to work in the Middle East — in locales such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar — for the best opportunities. In general, nurses who work in the Middle East earn tax-free salaries, receive a generous amount of vacation time and have ample opportunities for cultural immersion.

Nurses typically use health care recruiters to find employment and are required to sign one- to two-year contracts.

U.S. Government Employment Overseas

U.S. governmental agencies — including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the State Department and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps — need nurses to care for Americans living and working overseas. In general, APRNs must have several years of nursing experience to fill these positions.

How to Find Nursing Jobs Abroad

A number of online resources are available to connect nurses with the right opportunities. Some organizations, like the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), offer tools that can aid nurses in this journey, such as links to international organizations and global networking opportunities. Staffing agencies specializing in travel nursing jobs can also be a useful resource.

Nurses planning to work overseas need to research what work visas and licenses are required by the country where they plan to practice.

Nursing Overseas: Pros and Cons

The globalization of disease and health care has made the need for experienced nurses and nurse leaders worldwide even more crucial, particularly as the world faces a nursing shortage. The skill and expertise of these nurses can help address vital health concerns around the world, from infectious diseases such as COVID-19 to human trafficking and maternal and newborn health problems.

By working abroad, U.S. nurses can observe global problems and work cooperatively with their international counterparts to begin affecting change. Other benefits to a role in international nursing can include stipends for housing and living expenses, the opportunity to improve language and communication skills and the unique chance to experience living in another country.

However, there are risks to consider. International nurses may expose themselves to health hazards by working in certain areas. They may also sacrifice certain benefits available to staff nurses, such as paid time off. Additionally, they may experience social and emotional issues, such as feeling isolated or lonely due to frequent relocations and the difficulty of developing long-term bonds with colleagues.

For those who feel the pros outweigh the cons, nursing abroad can yield a wealth of exceptional rewards, particularly with the right preparation. By earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, nurses can gain the education and experience they need to bring about changes in health care on a global scale.

Overseas opportunities can begin while pursuing a DNP degree and can continue after graduation. Online DNP students at Duquesne University who opt for overseas study, through the transcultural and global health perspectives course, can gain a better understanding of the globalization of health care and expand their cultural competence.

Make Global Change with Duquesne University

Becoming an international nurse practitioner allows you to deliver quality care to those in greatest need. This can make international nursing a deeply satisfying career.

Duquesne University’s online DNP program and its concentrations can provide you with the skills you’ll need to manage the many evolving aspects of the field, including the internationalization of healthcare. The program builds on your existing knowledge and skills to provide you with a comprehensive education that can prepare you for a number of roles in leadership, public policy or global advocacy.

Students who work toward a DNP through Duquesne University’s online program have the added advantage of being able to study abroad in Italy at Duquesne’s Rome campus or in Ireland at Duquesne’s Dublin campus. Learn how we can help you become a global leader in nursing.

Recommended Reading

Nine Leadership Qualities in Nursing

Strategies for Managing Nurse Stress in the Workplace: The Ultimate Guide

Why Get a DNP Degree?


American Association of Nurse Practitioners, International Nurse Practitioner (NP) Resources

AMN Healthcare, Travel Nursing Staffing Agency

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Global Health Jobs and Opportunities

Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, Nurse

Doctors Without Borders, Registered Nurses/Nurse Practitioners

Newsweek, “Travel Nurse: See the World and Help People in Need”

Red Cross, Nursing & Health

Trusted Nurse Staffing, All of Your Questions about International Travel Nursing Jobs Answered Here

U.S. Department of State, Medical Provider (MP — NP/PA)

World Health Organization, Nursing and Midwifery