Wednesday, November 30, 2011

MiM Mailbag: Working abroad

My non-physician husband and I have a wanderlust that is not well satisfied due to the constraints of my job. We would love to live abroad when our children are at an age where they can appreciate the experience, but not too old that they wouldn't want to hang out with mom and dad or have their education interrupted in any significant way. Ideally when our daughter is 11 or 12 and our yet-to-be-born son is about 8 or 9. We are actually pretty open to where we would live as long it is safe for a young expat family. 

There are two big issues  - the first is that (aside from broken Spanish) I don't speak any other languages and the second is that my huge educational debt would prevent me from going without a salary for very long. I don't need to make as much as I would as a US employed physician, but I can't be a volunteer. I also know that medical licenses limited to one country, and most countries will not allow you to practice without licensure through their own boards (perhaps Australia and New Zealand are exceptions? I heard they are cracking down on foreign MDs due to some recent issues with substandard care).

I have a very half baked dream of working for a US embassy (perhaps doing IM) but not sure if that is really feasible or if that circumvents the issues of needing additional licensure. Locums is also an option, but have heard mixed reviews of some of the agencies. I also emailed a few agencies and never heard anything back.

I have noticed that there is quiet a bit of international readership of this blog. I would be interested to know if anyone has information regarding American physicians who would like to work abroad.

Many thanks in advance,



  1. I live in the Middle East at the moment. It's not everyone's cup of expat tea, but I've sure learnt a lot from living here.

  2. I talked to my peers about you. So, good news. You can work on US military base in Europe (my dream), look for jobs on Department of Defence.Embassy jobs are through Department of State. One of the doctors in my clinic did Embassy work, but had to fly all over that continent, and was eventually burnt out. As IM hopefully you can get stationed in one place. I was told military base jobs pay more than federal physician jobs here in US. One of the doctors from my clinic left for Germany a few years ago and lives there on the base. She sends us european sweets each Chirstmas, and numerous postcards of where she travels each weekend/month. I can't stand those postcards, she is so living my dream. If you want to work for UN in Brussels, must know French.(Great thing - all these jobs count toward your years of service and retirement). My son is starting music school in Europe next week. If only my husbund agreed to relocate! Good luck with this endevour. I truly believe in international experience. I spent months rotating in European medical schools as a medical student. Those memories will last me a life time. And believe it or not, it helped me with getting premier jobs in US. Multiple potential employers told me how they were blown away by my background, some admitted this was only reason they called me for interview... Win-win!
    P.S Promise to post here if you get international job.

  3. International experience is awesome! When I was 10, my parents moved us to Poland, shortly after the collapse of communism. I ended up living there for 8 years before coming back to Canada for university (my parents ended up staying there because they loved it so much) and I'm so thankful for it.

    I hope that if I become a physician, I'll be able to do the of the reasons I'm even leaning a bit towards doing my degree in Australia is because my hubby is from NZ and he would love to move back there for a few years. In any case, if I get into med school, I'm definitely going to try and do a rotation in NZ or Australia.

  4. Two doctors at my institution spent a fair amount of time in Botwsana as attendings between residency and fellowship (they went into ID), and had their first child over there. They did it through the institution they worked for, and were paid. You might consider looking for a similar arrangement.

  5. Hey guys. I really appreciate the feedback (as did my husband!). Part of me wants to do it ASAP before my IM knowledge gets to eroded by heme/onc, but I'd say we are likely quite a few years away from making it happen.

    And I will be sure to post my experience if we do make it happen.

    Thanks again

  6. Australia and New Zealand have locum tenens opportunities (advantage-- you don't need a second language). I don't know what the market is in IM but worth looking. Pay pretty well. You could also look into working in one of the ex-pat oil camps in places such as Sumatra and Kuwait. Presumably an oil company employee and they pay well for ex-pat jobs.

  7. You also don't have to practice medicine. You can get a job at a pharma company. Lots of MDs working all over the world.

  8. Have you considered the Philippines? Most Filipinos speak English as well as Tagolag, and they are very welcoming of Americans (although you have to be careful in some regions).

  9. I live and work in Australia. You have a few options depending on whether you've finished residency or fellowship. To work as an attending (consultant) you would likely have to work in a rural or suburban community. Suburban in Oz is usually 15-50,000 population 30min to 2 hours from the major cities, which can be somewhat isolated. The best way to accomplish this is to contact individual hospitals and arrange employment. Australians are generally friendly and it is a small medical community, so they will refer you on if they know someone who is looking for help. If you are hired that department will whelp you to get the appropriate visas and licensure. Another tract is to work as a registrar (resident) or senior registrar (like a chief resident) for s contracted time 3 months to indefinitely. The pay for registrars is MUCH higher than in the US. (As a senior reg my salary is base $145K +on-call and overtime -yes, we are paid for overtime! But, the salaries are 25% higher in my state -WA.). Again, the best way together these jobs is to apply directly to the hospitals. The hiring cycle starts in mid-June for jobs starting in February the following year, the start of the academic year. The licensing and verification can take upto a year. I would contact the specific Oz college -Medicine is the RACP, and contact the mmain medical college AMC to begin the process, which will be the same if you do registrar or consultant.

  10. To the Anonymous who says " I spent months rotating in European medical schools as a medical student ", can you say how you went about this? I start med school next week and want to make international experiences a priority. Thank you!


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