Do you have dreams of becoming a physician but also an itch to travel the world? Before you turn in your scrubs, keep reading—you actually can have it all without quitting your job.
With all the years and long shifts required to pursue a career in medicine, it may seem like you’re confined within the sterile walls of a hospital. However, with advancing technology and growing demands overseas, doctors are now more transient than ever, practicing medicine all over the world.
Here are a few creative ways you can go off the beaten path and weave a few travel adventures into your medical journey:
The irony of being a doctor is that you have a salary that allows you to travel but not the time or flexibility to do it—or so it seems. Many doctors assume you cannot mix business with pleasure in medicine. However, there are many ways to incorporate travel into your medical career without having to leave the profession.
For example, you can ask your employer for permission to attend medical conferences abroad, acquiring knowledge which will help your local team. You can also ask to delay the start date of your first job after residency and use that time to travel and expand your medical knowledge. If you are in a job that doesn’t allow much flexibility, you can also look into other options that give you more freedom, using the tag time between positions to travel.
All this to say, traveling as a physician, even for medical purposes, requires that you prioritize experiences over salary. There may be instances where you need to be willing to take a pay cut or miss out on a couple paychecks in order to travel the world. However, the payoff of following your passions will far outweigh any financial loss, including helping you avoid burnout.
In medical school, experience is the best teacher
You don’t have to wait until you’re an established doctor with a six-figure salary to travel the world—in fact, you shouldn’t. There is no better teacher than experience beyond the classroom, especially when it comes to practicing medicine in the context of your chosen specialty. Clinicals are the perfect chance for medical students to not only go outside the classroom, but outside their comfort zones.
For example, if you have a passion for sports medicine, why not train near an actual ski slope near the Arctic Circle where you can experience firsthand how to treat athletic injuries. Or perhaps you’re passionate about aerospace medicine. It would benefit you to attend trainings at Johnson Space Center to learn from NASA flight surgeons.
Beyond medicine, combining traveling with your medical school training will also allow you to learn certain specific skills and lingo that will allow you to better relate to your patients. It will also give you the chance to interact with your future patient clientele on regular basis, giving you a more holistic understanding of their lifestyles and tendencies.
Medical volunteering can take you places
While some doctors simply have an interest in exploring new places or acquiring new skillsets, others have more altruistic motivations for wanting to travel—like bringing their skills to people around the world who wouldn’t normally have access to quality healthcare. Many people see work as an obligation and travel as a luxury, rather than realizing the powerful impact combining the two could have on others.
According to an article on the Volunteer Forever website, “Many volunteers don’t realize that they may be able to use their specialized skills and that these skills could give them the ability to serve an at-need community in a way that most volunteers could not. Medical volunteer abroad trips can be extremely rewarding, and are a great chance for people with specialized skills to participate in a volunteer project that, because of the nature of their projects, can only accept people with very specific qualifications or interests.”
The paradox of serving abroad is you tend to be the one who benefits the most. Look into organizations like Doctors Without Borders, to find out how you can satisfy your thirst for travel, while satisfying needs around the world with your services.