February 8th, 2017

Want to Work Abroad?

Megan Tetlow, PA-C

Megan Tetlow, PA-C, is from Fort Myers, Florida, now working in Sheffield, England, as part of the National Physician Associate Expansion Program. She practices in gynecologic oncology and is a guest blogger for In Practice.

Have you ever thought about working abroad? Maybe like me you’ve always daydreamed about living and working in another country, maybe you’re hungry for a new experience, or perhaps recent political news in the U.S. has you googling the feasibility of moving to Canada. Regardless of your motivations, for those individuals motivated and willing to do the legwork (and paperwork!  I’m not going to lie, there’s quite a bit of paperwork.), it is possible to work outside of the good old U.S. of A. Today, I would like to share some of the potential avenues for American physician assistants interested in working abroad.

While the U.S. has by far the largest PA workforce (over 100,000 proudly certified PAs!), other countries are trialing and adopting the PA role in their own health systems. I currently practice in England as part of the National Physician Associate Exchange Program, a two-year program to expand the role of PAs in the National Health Service in England. A colleague of mine participated in a similar program in Scotland. Australia and New Zealand both have conducted similar trials investigating the PA role and how it could be integrated. Closer to home, Canada has a growing PA workforce, and American PAs that have graduated from an ARC (Accreditation Review Commission)-accredited PA program and are certified by the NCCPA (National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants) are eligible to take the Canadian PA Certification Exam. Other countries that employ PAs include Northern Ireland, Wales, the Netherlands, South Africa, Ghana, and India (let me know in the comments if I’m missing anyone!).

Another path for American PAs to work abroad is via a post through the U.S. government. Several federal organizations employ PAs and other healthcare practitioners to provide medical care while their employees are abroad. The U.S. Armed Forces employs civilian PAs to provide care to members of the military and their families on bases both in the U.S. and overseas. Continuing in the vein of government employment, the U.S. State Department hires PAs as Foreign Service medical providers to provide primary care and preventive health services to state department employees and their families. These posts are usually carried out on two-year overseas tours in a wide variety of locations across the globe.

The possibility of working for NGOs and other aid organizations also should not be overlooked. Organizations such as the Peace Corps employ PAs as medical officers. In this role you would be providing medical care to Peace Corps volunteers both within the U.S. and abroad. Additionally, various private companies, research groups, and contract firms employ PAs to support their employees all over the world, from Nepal to Antarctica (bring your mittens!).

Also, while not technically abroad, another option for American PAs is working in a U.S. territory. For example, PAs can work in both Guam in the Western Pacific and in the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. Family practice on Friday, snorkeling and piña coladas in St John’s on Saturday? Yes, please.

Finally, there are many avenues for volunteerism abroad as a PA, in both secular and religiously affiliated roles, with both short-term and long-term options. The Peace Corps welcomes PAs and other healthcare provider volunteers in a number of opportunities in community and public health on two-year tours. There are dozens of groups and charities that coordinate shorter-term volunteer work abroad as well (mention any you are aware of or happen to work for in the comments!). PAs for Global Health, a nonprofit organization for PAs interested in volunteering in medically underserved areas around the world, has numerous resources for PAs interested in medical volunteerism abroad.

The road to working abroad is not always easy. There are frustrations and crossed wires, cultural differences, and paperwork — always paperwork. But for those with a will to work abroad and an open mind, it is also an incredibly rewarding experience that I am so grateful to be having. If you have an interest, I encourage you to seek out a similar opportunity. Please see the resources below for more information. Until next time, cheers!

Resources:

1. National Physician Associate Exchange Programme

2. The Faculty of Physician Associates (UK)

3. Canadian Association of Physician Assistants

4. Openings for civilians within the U.S. Military

5. U.S. State Department Foreign Service Medical Providers

6. Peace Corps

7. PAs for Global Health

21 Responses to “Want to Work Abroad?”

  1. Kelsey Miller says:

    Hi Megan,

    Thank you for this information, I’ll be starting PA school soon, and am exploring different opportunities that will be available to me in my career. I was wondering if you knew the name of the program similar to NPAEP in Scotland, or if it’s through the same one.

    • Megan Tetlow says:

      Hi Kelsey,
      Thanks for reading. It looks like it was called NHS (National Health Service) Scotland Pilot: Physician Assistants. It was a term program that is now complete. However Scotland does have and employ Physician Associates now, as they do throughout the UK
      Thanks,
      Megan

  2. Rita says:

    Hi! Are you planning to return to the States eventually or is there a possibility that you (or any other PA from the United States) can stay in the U.K. permanently?

    • Megan Tetlow says:

      Hi Rita,
      Thank you for question and you really hit the nail on the head! ^_^
      I do not know what I’m going to be doing yet after the program. It is possible to stay and work in the UK, but if you don’t have a green card or dual citizenship (like one of my colleagues, who is planning on staying indefinitely), it’s a bit tricky since you have to re-apply for your visa and have a visa sponsor, which currently is my hospital. I will certainly write a post on it when I decide, so please stay tuned 🙂
      Cheers,
      Megan

  3. Jessica says:

    Hey Megan, thanks for sharing your experience abroad. I thought I’d add that Ireland started a pilot scheme to introduce PAs in 2015, hiring PAs from Canada and the US. There is currently 1 university with a PA program in Dublin

  4. Andrea Caprio says:

    Megan,

    Thank you for this very informative post and the list of related resources.
    Very helpful.

  5. MAGDI MAGAR says:

    Good morning Megan

    We are a group called Clinical Assistants . I am actually a graduate with M.B.Ch.B Faculty Of Medicine , Egypt . I have a Licence to practice Medicine ( but only under Supervision , which rarely happens ) , from the College Of Physicians and Surgeons Of Alberta . Do I qualify to work in your World ? Thanks Megan . I just need a response . Magdi Magar .

    • Megan Tetlow says:

      Hi Magdi,
      I love learning about new roles within healthcare systems! Do you use Twitter? If so, please private message me @mltetlow and I’d be happy to chat about your question. Thanks!

  6. Maureen Taylor says:

    Hi Megan,

    Is the NHS PA expansion program only open to US-trained PAs? Why not Canadian-trained PAs too, as we now have 3 university PA programs and > 500 working PAs across the country? And, we are a Commonwealth country to boot!

    Thanks,
    Maureen Taylor, CCPA

    • Megan Tetlow says:

      Hi Maureen,

      Thanks for you comment. It’s so exciting for our profession that the role of PAs continues to expand in Canada. I believe the expansion program was focused on US trained PAs, though my thought is probably just because since there are so many PAs in the US. That being said, the program may very well be open to our Candadian-trained PA colleagues. If you’re interested in discussing it, you’re very welcome to private message me on twitter @mltetlow, or post your email address and I’ll email you

      Thanks!
      Megan

  7. Ashley says:

    Hello and thank you for your insight and advice! I am interested in applying to PA school, do you believe over time PAs will have more opportunities to work abroad and practice the way that the nursing profession can? Also I had contacted the Peace Corp and was told due to the laws of the countries they work in, they are not able to yet accept Physician Assistants. Hopefully in time that will change!

    Thank you
    Ashley

    • Megan Tetlow says:

      Hi Ashley!

      Thanks for your comments. Yes, it is my great hope that the PA profession will continue to expand to other countries as more health systems see the benefit of physician assistants and the team-based care model. In regards to the Peace Corps as Medical Officers, I certainly can’t speak for them, but their own regulations published online June 2016 says they employ PAs: files.peacecorps.gov/documents/MS-261-Policy.pdf

      Hope that helps!
      Sincerely,
      Megan Tetlow

  8. Ashley says:

    Megan,

    Thank you for your insight! Also a few more questions, for a new graduate of an American PA program would you recommend working in the US before working abroad? If so, how long would you say is necessary to work in US first? 1 year? Finally as a new profession abroad have you received any difficulties from MDs, nurses or anyone in the health field?

    Thank you!
    Ashley

    • Megan Tetlow says:

      Hi Ashley,

      Yes I would definitely recommend working in the US first before seeking a position abroad. Most of the positions I have seen, both working in a foreign medical system and for American companies, are looking for experienced providers. The program I’m a part of in the U.K. for instance, had a minimum requirement of 5 years of experience. Every job is different of course, (I practice in a sub specialty and always have), but if your goal was to work abroad, I would think you would have more opportunities as a generalist then a specialist, as a rule. And while any new type of role is bound to be met with some difficulties, often as a result of anxieties/fear of the unknown, my experience has been very positive overall

  9. Lorena says:

    Hello Megan, I am a PA working in family med/indigent care for over 3yrs and I have always been interested in working overseas since I graduated PA school, especially europe. I was wondering how did you decide on salary? And do they provide housing? I am truly interested in getting paperwork started, how long is the process to be accepted into program? Thank you for the info!

    • Megan Tetlow says:

      Hi Lorena,

      If you’d like to reply with your email or send me a private message on Twitter @mltetlow, I’d be happy to give you a little more information about the program I’m participating in

      Cheers,
      Megan

  10. JESSICA XIONG says:

    Hi Megan, Great post! I found it very informative.
    I do have a question about working as a PA in Canada. I am currently working towards my PA school and still got a few years but I would like to know what my options are once i complete it. How does graduating in the US and wanting to work as a PA in Canada work, such as the process?

    Again, Thank you for your great post!!

  11. Tima says:

    Hi Megan, thank you for your informative post!

    I’m wondering as a British citizen, who is finishing a nursing degree- would I be eligible to apply for a PA course in Canada? I really like the idea of studying abroad and deeply aspire to be a PA!

    Kindest regards

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