Volunteer in Latin America


I am a newly graduated nurse and am very interested in volunteer work in Latin America. I spent 2 years there volunteering in the past, but now that I am a nurse I would like to know of any organizations that I could work with in that capacity...rural clinics, etc. Anyone know of some good organizations that could use some help and how I could contact them?

suzanne4, RN

26,410 Posts

Please get a couple of years of experience before even considering this. School doesn't prepare you for the real world of nursing to begin with, your learning curve is just going to begin when you start your orientation in a facility. Doing volunteer work as a nurse you will need extra-special assessment skills, IV starting, how to rig equipment, etc. How to make do without much. Supplies will be nothing like you are used to............

I do not know of any programs that will take new grads because of this.......

Your ER skills also have to be very good, as well as skills with working with children and infants. Everything will be coming your way......


463 Posts

I'm not sure where you live, but many cities in the US have clinic networks (or a clinic) that serve the indigent population. Many are staffed by volunteers and are always looking for more people to help. Have you considered something like this? They would not be listed in the phone book, but check with local churches, homeless shelters, etc. Medical schools often have students helping out, so they might know of them too. They could tell you where the clinics are located.

I think it is great that you want to help out overseas, (or in another country) but don't forget we have many here who can't afford or don't want to go into the system - and they also need help.

And, it is often through these clinics that you will find overseas projects - the people that work at these clinics often know of opportunities for overseas medical/nursing volunteer work.

Good luck in finding something - it's out there!



7 Posts

If you go on idealist.org, you can search for health related volunteer opportunities abroad. A lot of the places welcome medical students so I imagine a nurse will be an asset to the community, as long as you are willing to learn. I agree that something like Doctors without Borders or Int'l Red Cross needs experience but there are so many smaller clinics or organizations abroad that have programs willing to train those who are interested and can use the extra people.

I am also about to graduate from school this summer and am interested in international health. I have been searching that site for some opportunities - so far, I've found some really promising ones. Some of the opportunities are cheap too, you just need to look at the details. I actually did a volunteer opportunity in Mexico last year (not in healthcare though) and I found it on idealist.org so many of the organizations are valid and not just some made up place trying to trick foreigners of their money.

I hope that helps and good luck searching for a program!


875 Posts

I really agree that a few years of nursing under your belt will make you a much more useful volunteer. In situations like you describe you are not going to be considered an extra pair of hands, rather they will want you to be an expert. Being willing to learn is nice, but it doesn't go very far. There are many small organizations, and they might be willing to take you, but they will not be training you, if they had time to train, they would do the appropriate thing which is to train the local people who plan to live there forever. You always have to think about why they need you in that organization. Organizations like IRC use Nurses not as nurses, but as managers and teachers, so you need to have some experience, so you can effectively manage and teach, otherwise it is a disaster in the making. This, I realize is not widely known, because all the photos show expats giving care, which might be about 10-15% of your daily duties, but it looks more interesting than showing expats tearing their hair out over a duty roster.

All that said, there are many many good organizations which can offer you two to 4 week opportunities where you can experience the culture, learn, work with physicians close by, etc. Although some of these are somewhat not so great projects ie they do not benefit the community long term, You can get a feel for things, and it looks good if you do decide to work with ICRC in the future.

Also agree with another poster, working with the really disadvantaged here in the US can put you in a good position in the future.


112 Posts

Specializes in med-surg, step-down, ICU/CCU, ED.

try cmmb.org

I have a friend, fresh out of nursing school, who is volunteering with them in Honduras. She is having an incredible experience. And let me tell you, she's doing stuff that she wouldn't be doing at all in the hospital setting. I think you should just go for it. You'll be a happier person for it in the end.


6 Posts

There is a directory of grass-roots volunteer programs in Latin America

here: http://www.volunteersouthamerica.net

Some of the programs are specialist medical, but many are street-kids

programs that would really appreciate having a qualified nurse on board.




230 Posts

Doctor's Without Borders is a really cool site! Thanks for posting it. :) I'm also very interested in volunteering and working abroad, so it's great to get more infomation about it! :)

try cmmb.org

I have a friend, fresh out of nursing school, who is volunteering with them in Honduras. She is having an incredible experience. And let me tell you, she's doing stuff that she wouldn't be doing at all in the hospital setting. I think you should just go for it. You'll be a happier person for it in the end.

Do you have more information about this? I would appreciate a contact information. Thanks kindly.


83 Posts


There are dozens and dozens groups out there that will take nursing students and new grads! You'll learn very fast but it'll be the experience of a lifetime, and for lots of these places a new grad is miles more than what they would have had without the volunteers. It helps to have work experience before you head out and it would definitely make things easier, but it's not necessary. If you have the knowledge and training from school, and the willingness and passion to volunteer your efforts in other countries, you can do it :)

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