By Dr Holly Anne Hills MRCVS
As veterinarians, we have a unique opportunity to work in almost every corner of the globe. With this comes the excitement of exploring new places and meeting new people, as well as professional growth and development.
But before you take the leap and jet off on your big adventure, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of working internationally as a vet. While the work-life balance and clinical opportunities are often very attractive abroad, it’s not always after-work cocktails on the beach or skiing at the weekends!
New Places and Experiences
One of the most common reasons for veterinarians to move overseas is to seek a better work-life balance, whether that be sunshine and beaches to relax on after a long day’s work, or adventures in the countryside and a calmer way of life.
Jumping off the treadmill can be what many vets need to maintain their health and happiness, and there’s no denying that slowing down and enjoying a life outside work has great benefits for our mental health. With mental health being one of the biggest drivers for vets choosing to leave the profession, international work and travel could provide many with the opportunity to reconnect with their work.
Exploring new parts of the world and immersing yourself in another culture is a huge advantage of a move abroad for many, and travel is by far one of the biggest pros of working internationally.
You could have the chance to spend more time doing the things you love and enjoying activities that are usually reserved for vacations. Weekends can be spent exploring the beautiful country you now call home, while vacation time can be used to explore other countries and areas in whatever corner of the world you are in.
Short-term positions, such as locum work or volunteering overseas, can allow vets to backpack and see more of the world in a shorter space of time while still working, gaining invaluable clinical experience, and even earning a little extra money to fund your trip along the way!
Working abroad as a veterinarian not only has many pros for you personally, but professionally too. The chance to work with exotic species and wildlife can give vets with an interest in these species a unique opportunity to learn and develop a more in-depth knowledge and understanding.
The exotics/wildlife sectors can be highly competitive, so work abroad may also open doors to internships and training programs as well as roles in conservation and research.
Clinical standards vary globally, as do medicines licensing and the availability of certain procedures. Traveling to parts of the world where facilities are more limited can make you a more adaptable and creative clinician, and provides new and recent graduates with a chance to develop their basic skills.
The downside of this though is that it can be emotionally and professionally challenging to not have the facilities you would like to provide the best care for your patients.
On the other hand, working in high-spec clinics in the developed world provides the opportunity to learn new and different techniques and protocols, although these may not always be applicable when you get home.
Settling into your new life abroad can take time. It’s an incredibly exciting time – getting to know your new colleagues, immersing yourself in your new surroundings, and taking on exciting clinical opportunities.
But it can also be a challenging time – adapting to your new surroundings can take time, especially if the climate, culture, and language are different to what you are used to at home.
It’s completely normal to feel a little homesick at times, and not having your family and support network on your doorstep can be difficult. But remember that your new colleagues and friends are there to support you, and putting yourself out there and embracing the changes you are experiencing will help you to settle in quicker!
Remember that while traveling and working as a vet might sound glamorous and adventurous, it’s not a cheap process, especially if you plan to visit various countries. Not only do you need to consider the cost of visas and licenses, but also flights, accommodation, and the cost of living once you reach your destination.
Salaries overseas will be aligned with the cost of living, but you should try to have some money behind you in case of emergencies, such as last-minute flights home or additional paperwork. Many employers overseas will fund visas and licenses, as well as provide relocation packages, and as it can be an expensive process this can be a huge help.
Many countries will require you to have a visa to live and work there, as well as register with the local veterinary authorities. While these can be very straightforward to obtain and many employers and recruitment companies can assist with the process, it can be lengthy and costly and requires a lot of forward planning.
Even once you are there, visas usually need renewing in plenty of time if you plan to extend your stay. In some countries, you may need to sit additional exams in order to practice, so consider whether that’s something you are prepared to do!
You should also remember that in some parts of the world, access to healthcare may be different from what you are used to at home. This is especially important to consider if you plan to work in developing countries or remote areas where healthcare is not readily available.
In some countries treatment is not free at the point of service – employers may provide you with insurance, but if not, you will need to arrange this yourself to ensure you can access medical care should you need it.
The pros and cons of working internationally as a vet are different for everyone, and this post certainly isn’t exhaustive. But if working abroad is something you are seriously considering, do your research and plan ahead before deciding if it’s definitely the right decision for you. Making a list of all the pros and cons that are relevant to you personally can be a useful exercise.
For most, the pros far outweigh the cons, and the pull of adventure and opportunities is undeniable! If you need support planning your move, there are many resources and agencies out there with the relevant experience to support you in making the best choice for you.
If you are looking to work abroad as a vet, get in touch!