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Working abroad

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At some point in your career you may decide you want to spend time working overseas.

Personal motivations are varied; you may wish to literally expand your horizons. Perhaps you want to see medical treatment in developing countries and share knowledge with others or want to work with emerging treatments in the developed world.

You may just want a break from the NHS and training, or be unsure of what to do next and need some time to think.

This section will give you some ideas and resources to explore before making your decision on undertaking work, travel or training abroad.

 

Your career in medicine homepage

Your next steps

Depending on the stage of your career, you can talk to:

  • Clinical or Educational Supervisors
  • F1s or F2s who have worked abroad
  • Senior Trainees / Training Programme directors
  • Other senior staff who have worked abroad

Talk to our team

 

When to go

A career in medicine offers a series of stages where it may be more or less appropriate to take time out. Each stage has its pros and cons and these need to be considered carefully when making a decision.

The ideal time for working or studying abroad will differ from person to person. Think about your individual circumstances and the stage of your training. You may also find our page on taking time out of interest to you. 

After Medical School

As long as you abide by any regulations in place from the GMC or UK Foundation Programme Office, it is possible to take time out between graduating from Medical School and starting your Foundation Programme.

It is advisable to let the Medical School know your intentions of taking a gap year so that information transfers between it and your Foundation School happen at a later date.

During Foundation Training

Some Foundation Schools will support time out between FY1 and FY2, or accredit an FY2 year abroad. If you are interested, it is imperative that you talk to your Foundation School director as early as possible to discuss the options. Check out the Foundation Programme Reference Guide for more information.

Ciara Deall talks about how she organised her F2 training year in Australia

After Foundation Training

This is probably the most popular time for doctors to head overseas for work. They will do so for a year or two and return to the UK for Specialty training within three years. 

Please note: 

  • the current requirement for UK Specialty training applicants is to have evidence of achievement of foundation competences, “in the three and a half years preceding the advertised post start date for the round of application” 
  • that most specialties want candidates not to have exceeded 18 months working (post-foundation or equivalent) in the specialty to which they applying.  

At this stage doctors are often seeking a change of scenery and a break from training after the six or more years at medical school and foundation training. You may also feel like many other doctors at this stage and be uncertain which specialty you wish to pursue. Time out working abroad may help with this decision.

During Specialty Training

It may be possible to get a placement abroad during Specialty Training which would count towards accredited training, although this is getting increasingly difficult in certain areas due to the recruitment of locums.

It is important to research your options and discuss your decision with your training programme directors, the Local Education and Training Board (LETB), GMC and relevant training college.

Explore GMC approved Out of Programme options

If you are considering GP Training then The Global Health Programmes enables applicants to take an Out of Programme Experience between their ST2 and ST3 years. The scheme is run through Africa Health Placements (AHP) and is available in most HEE regional offices and Wales.

GP Global Health Fellowships

After Specialty Training

It is possible to gain employment abroad after Specialty Training which may give you additional experience at senior level. This experience could be a valuable addition to your CV if you decide to apply for senior posts back in the UK.

Doing all your Specialty Training abroad

While it is possible to do all your Specialty Training abroad it is imperative you check your eligibility to practice in the UK when or if you return.

 

Issues to consider

Your motivations

Take some time to consider why you want to work abroad. Will this time add anything to your career? Why abroad and not in the UK? Are you looking to develop personally as well as professionally? Are you trying to test a career idea prior to applying for Specialty Training?

Developed versus undeveloped countries

Both will present different challenges and opportunities so it’s important to think about what you want to gain from your experience. For example developing countries may expose you to more clinical situations at an earlier stage in your career, whereas developed countries could be a better opportunity for further study or shadowing.

Implications of a break

Taking time out to work abroad at any point of your career may interrupt your work here in the UK. Depending on when you do it the break could interfere with continuous service in the NHS, pensions, National Insurance and tax payments.

You will also need to consider what might change in the UK during your time abroad and how you will keep up to date with developments in the UK.

Application timelines and being away from the UK

Depending on when you are planning to work abroad you will need to consider how the break will affect your ability to apply to the next stage of your career in the UK.

For example, if you decide to take time out immediately after Medical School you will not be able to defer your Foundation place, you would need to return to the UK to sit the Situational Judgement Test (SJT) and the process for applying may change while you are away.

Similarly if you work abroad before applying to Higher Speciality Training you will need to keep abreast of the application process and should consider how you will attend interviews.

 

Returning to the UK

It may seem counter-intuitive to be thinking about your return before you’ve even left the country, but having a well-thought-out plan may ensure you don’t get miss deadlines.

Some things to consider while you’re away

  • Be aware of timelines and deadlines for the next step of your career (e.g. Foundation placements, sitting the SJT, Specialty/GP applications, clinical skills refreshment, GMC licensing issues)
  • Keep a reflective portfolio or diary so you can evidence your skills and experiences to interviewers
  • Find out what evidence of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) the GMC would require on your return. It may be that the country you work in will have similar requirements to the GMC and the evidence you collect for your overseas regulator will transfer across. For example, the Australian Medical Council set out their requirements.  Check out the GMC Guidance on CPD.
  • Stay connected, or reconnect quickly with your UK networks (e.g. colleagues, supervisors, LETB or local Deanery etc.) so that you are kept up to date with developments at home.

Useful resources

Overseas voluntary work

Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) Doctors of the WorldUK-Med - for UK Emergency Medical TeamVoluntary Service Overseas (VSO)British Red CrossThe British Red Cross do not send volunteers overseas, but there are opportunities to work overseas through affiliated organisations

Save the Children Save the Children merged with MERLIN in 2013. Save the Children do not send volunteers overseas, but occasional opportunities may arise.

Other opportunities

Dive medicine requires qualified physicians who have a keen interest in diving-related injuries.

Diving Diseases Research Centre (DDRC)

Expedition Medical Officers are individuals responsible for participants’ health and well-being on trips. While not necessarily a full-time role; having an understanding of emergency medicine in the wild can open up new opportunities abroad.

World Extreme MedicineWilderness Medical Training

Travel medicine is an interdisciplinary specialty area and basic training can come from a broad range of backgrounds such as primary care, tropical medicine and occupational health.

International Society of Travel MedicineLondon School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Adventure Medic

 

 

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