Editor’s Note: This article is from the EMS World archives. Due to ongoing interest it has been updated and re-released for 2013.
Have you ever wanted to travel and see the world? Are you looking for something else out of your EMS career? If so, you might want to consider a job in a foreign country. Healthcare professionals are in short supply around the world, and that includes paramedics and EMTs. All you need to get started are a passport and sense of adventure.
The kinds of working conditions and job descriptions are as numerous as the agencies that employ medics overseas, and there are many avenues one can take to jobs outside the USA. They range from short stints working as a volunteer for NGOs (non-governmental organizations), to multi-year contracts with governments or private companies. But probably the biggest market for EMS professionals is in the Middle East; the Arabian gulf to be exact. Oil rich nations like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, along with the numerous petroleum companies doing business there, have been bringing in westerners for decades to fill skilled labor positions.
A majority of the positions there are with ambulance services operated by private hospitals. A great number of these hospitals are staffed primarily by western doctors and nurses, and the work consists mainly of inter-facility transports, along with the occasional emergency. Many petroleum corporations hire medics to work at their refining facilities there also. In this case, the work is primarily in a clinic setting, wherein the medics function as primary care providers. Very often these companies will provide medics with some type of advanced-scope-of- practice education, and this training can be helpful for medics looking to work on oil rigs and in other remote settings.
Speaking of remote settings, how about the middle of a war zone? The U.S. military, along with many companies working for them, will employ medics to work in conflict zones around the world. Make no mistake, this is dangerous work, and the risks are high. But, as usual, the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward.
Contrary to popular belief, however, the entire Middle East is not a war zone. Just as mainstream society in the U.S. has little to do with the dramatic headlines on the news there, day-to-day life in the Middle East has little to do with guns, bombs and other elements of terror. Safety is a subjective issue, but for the majority of westerners living there, the Middle East is as safe as home.
Why would someone do this kind of thing? Well, the benefits for those willing to make the leap into the unknown are numerous. The financial remuneration alone is often enough to justify the plunge. The salaries range widely, but most people who work there easily earn double what they earn at home, and it's tax free. In addition, most employers will provide you with a nice, secure place to live, most often in a complex with other westerners, and some even provide a stipend for living expenses. The vacation time is generous and many use the time to travel to places that would normally be ought of reach. Moreover, many find the warm climate and laid-back lifestyle an improvement over their current circumstances.
Maybe even more valuable than the money however, is the personal and professional growth you can experience while living and working abroad. The challenges of coping with new people, a strange culture and a different language are enormous. Successfully overcoming these obstacles will give you confidence and skills that will stay with you for life.
The life of an expatriate worker is certainly different from that at home, but with a little flexibility and creativity, it can be a rewarding and even enjoyable existence. Most of the amenities we have come to expect in our modern lives are widely available, and generally speaking westerners live much as they do at home. These are fundamental Islamic governments, and guests in these countries are expected to respect Islamic law, but there is a quiet understanding that strict adherence is not expected.
There are many companies that recruit healthcare workers for positions in the Middle East and around the world. An internet search will turn up companies and job sites including Helen Zeigler & Associates, HEALTHeCAREERS, oilcareers.com, rigzone.com, Onsite OHS and Remote Medical.
Using a recruiting agency will make the process of locating employers, applying for jobs, and relocating much easier than if you go it alone. They will manage everything from delivering your application to scheduling your departing flight, and they can answer any questions not covered here.
Aside from recruiting agencies, there are many other sources of information on overseas employment, including professional journals, and of course, the internet. Some sites of interest include www.escapeartist.com, for information about living and working abroad, and www.idealist.org, for information on humanitarian jobs and volunteer positions. As with any search, the more you look, the more you will find.
Living and working in a foreign country or remote location can be a life changing experience, and the rewards can be great. So, whether you are seeking a little adventure, need a change of scenery, or simply want to try something different, a job in another country could be just what you're looking for.
Jason Ernest is a NREMT-P with over 10 years of prehospital experience. He started his career in Atlanta, Georgia, later worked as firefighter in Charleston, South Carolina and also spent several years living and working in the Middle East. He lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for two years, where he worked for the King Fasial Hospital Ambulance Service, and he spent one year working for Halliburton in Kuwait. He is currently between contracts and working as a paramedic in Athens, Georgia. Read his commentary on life as a Middle East Medic.