Alternative Careers in Nursing Part 4: Adventures with Travel

Career options available for those in the nursing field have never been better. In this four-part series, we examine opportunities for nurses who are looking for careers outside that of the traditional hospital bedside nurse.

In the fourth and last post of this series,we focus on positions geared toward those who love to travel. There are a number of opportunities for nurses in preventive, emergency response, vacation resort, and volunteer positions throughout the world.

Preventive Care: The Proactive Approach

Many organizations are looking for professionals to send overseas to aid in different health improvement initiatives around the world. The Centers for Disease Control is one prominent advocate for improving the health and well-being of people throughout the globe, preparing for possible health risks, and boosting the public health capacity. Whether working in an administrative position as a health advisor, or hands-on as a nurse, many who have left their home base have found their time abroad to be rewarding. One CDC nurse reflects:

“In the field, there is the sense of being on the front lines. If you look at opportunities in public health, who could turn down the opportunity to do the work you love in a place you’ve never been before, where your skills are so vitally needed?”

And those skills really are making a difference. It is estimated that immunizations alone prevent between two and three million deaths each year from basic illnesses like diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, and measles—and this does not take into account the effect of implementing better nutritional programs, medical facilities, and easier access to medications that also often come with global health initiatives.

While the CDC is a federal organization, there are many other companies and organizations dedicated to providing preventive care to global citizens. The World Health Organization is committed to affordable healthcare, preventing non-communicable diseases, and promoting a healthy way of living for all, while UNICEF focuses exclusively on the health of the rising generations. Whatever the passion, chances are there’s an organization looking for your help to promote it.

First Aid through First Response

Because not all health crises can be prevented, just as important in caring for our international neighbors is a functioning first response system. When natural disasters, plagues, and other emergencies strike, those who enlist as first responders have an opportunity to put their nursing skills to use in situations just as critical, fast-paced, and decision-oriented as those one finds in the hospital.

The International Medical Corps (IMC) offers such opportunities. As a global humanitarian nonprofit organization, the IMC is comprised primarily of volunteer doctors and nurses committed to the preservation of underserved communities through rapid first response missions in emergency situations. And with the acute phase (when most lives can be saved and diseases contained) of disaster response lasting a mere 72 hours, not only is it important for responders to arrive quickly but to make rapid decisions under tremendous pressure. For those used to the high-stress atmosphere of emergency rooms, this can be a great opportunity to see new places, get involved in global relief, and put nursing skills to work. In addition to providing timely first aid during times of crisis, many doctors and nurses also have the opportunity to stay following the initial treatment to help train local staff to better help in the recuperating and rebuilding of the communities after the disaster.

And there are many other organizations dedicated to similar causes. The American Red Cross, International Rescue Committee, Doctors Without Borders, and Medical Teams International are a few organizations focused on providing timely medical help during international crisis. In addition, there are many religious organizations that offer opportunities for those seeking to offer medical relief during emergency situations.

Living the Life: Travel Locations

Not all nurses seeking to travel are looking to “rough it” in disaster-stricken or underprivileged community settings. RNs are also in high demand around the globe for a variety of resort and travel positions. So high, in fact, that according to Forbes, nurses are among the highest-paid staff in global resort locations. From sunny beach bungalows to snowy ski lodges, there is always a need for qualified medical help.

Those who seek to find such a job must, in addition to being a current RN, have a variety of experience—much like that gained while working in a hospital setting. Nurses at travel locations are often expected to treat both staff and visitors, many of which are being exposed to the unfamiliar illnesses and risks associated with traveling to foreign cities, eating different foods, and trying new activities. This, in combination with the remote nature of some of these resorts—and even more remote nature of cruise ships—means that it is imperative that nurses working internationally have the diversified skills and experience to be able to handle whatever comes.

Voyage into Volunteering

As noted with some of the earlier organizations—a number of international nursing opportunities may start with or exclusively function on a voluntary basis. While this may not be a long-term feasible option for all, for those nurses seeking a brief change of scenery, this can be the solution to bedside burn-out. And it can invite valuable life experience and perspective to those who leave the comforts of home to challenge themselves.


No matter what an individual’s preferences and skill-set may be, the RN has many options when it comes to finding ways to utilize his or her expertise. Whether on the home turf or far away, at the forefront of a disaster site or the backwoods of a small impoverished community, there are many opportunities to create a personalized, meaningful calling for each and every nurse.

For more information, check out these websites for a few ways to start your international nursing adventure:

View the previous post on alternative careers for nursing here.


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