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How Does Volunteer Nursing Work in Africa?

Volunteers are in high demand all over the world, but nurses are even more so. Wherever there is a doctor taking care of the sick, nurses need to be there to assist. Nurse volunteers are a great contribution to the medical field, and a way to improve healthcare globally.

In Africa alone, volunteer work is vast, because of the millions of citizens who don’t have access to basic healthcare. If you are considering volunteering in Africa as a nurse, here’s what you need to know.

Pass a Background Check

Most volunteer employment requires you to have no criminal history and to be truthful in your application. The volunteer board of directors needs to know that you have no severe offenses that could compromise the medical work and that you are not ill. You will be subjected to several background investigations, including medical history, previous employment, and an assessment of your education.

Because you’ll be entering a foreign country, the medical board will want to make sure you don’t have any exotic diseases that could infect the patients you’ll be caring for. They also need to know that by choosing you as a nurse volunteer, they are ensuring that you are emotionally and mentally capable. This may necessitate a mental examination to see how you handle stress and other demanding situations.


All volunteer nurses must go through the same passport and visa requirements as anyone traveling outside of the nation. Because you are volunteering in the medical profession, no additional permission is required. Certified and licensed nurses will need to bring a current copy of their certification with them. All of your academic transcripts, as well as any evidence related to your volunteer application, will be required. The following step is to prepare your travel documents.

Depending on the length of your volunteer program, you may need to apply for a visa for that duration. It’s a good idea to purchase travel insurance to safeguard yourself while visiting a distant place. Travel insurance will cover you for lost luggage and emergency medical requirements while you’re away.

Educational Requirements

To volunteer as a nurse in any country, you must have appropriate nursing certifications. A few hundred hours of practical experience are required as part of any nursing or medical degree program. This can be done through volunteer work in areas where nurses are in limited supply. You will work with a variety of health cases during this practical exposure, which will provide you with the best experience and practical knowledge.

Programs such as the accelerated BSN online programs with Baylor University can help you place yourself as a volunteer in Africa. Because of its vast diversity and the economic hardships that the majority of the people face, Africa is one of the most popular countries for volunteer work. Uganda, in particular, lacks basic healthcare facilities and has one of the world’s highest child mortality rates. The fundamental issue is that education is poorly regulated, and individuals are unaware of basic hygiene and healthcare due to a lack of resources. Volunteer nurses can assist by teaching and advising the individuals they care for of how to avoid certain illnesses and infections.

Get Vaccinated

Before you can care for another person, you must first take care of yourself. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires that anyone traveling to foreign countries, such as those on the African continent, obtain the necessary vaccines. The individuals in Africa who require the most assistance have not been vaccinated against all of the common diseases that most Europeans and Americans are required by law to be vaccinated against.

The issue isn’t always that you get sick and infect the others around you, but that is a huge concern. The most serious problem is that a person may be a carrier without even realizing it. They could be inadvertently transferring a disease while showing no signs or symptoms. Malaria, the common flu, and typhoid kill children in Africa because free medical treatment is not readily available.

Language Requirements

There are eleven official languages in Africa. Depending on where your volunteer program takes you in Africa, you may be required to learn Zulu, Sotho, Venda, and other languages. The most widely spoken language is Zulu; however, the continent is home to a variety of other dialects. It’s critical to become familiar with common phrases and terminology, particularly in the medical industry.

Understand fundamental communication so that you can better communicate with the people you look after. They’re scared, hungry, and in need of help, so it’s your job to make them feel safe. Even a little knowledge of their dialect goes a long way in establishing rapport.

Working with Limited Resources

Most doctors and healthcare professionals have found that when volunteering in a place like Africa, you will have far fewer resources to perform basic medical procedures. In many of the affected countries, there isn’t running water or sanitized hospital facilities to work with. There are even less experienced and qualified staff members to help manage the workload.

Part of your volunteer work will be learning how to work with limited resources. You will need to find creative and innovative solutions by going out of your comfort zone to find the best course of action. You may have limited antibiotics or IV drips so you need to know how to deal with those kinds of situations.

Volunteering as a nurse is not easy, and you must be certain that it is what you want. You will be working with fewer medical appliances and will most likely not have enough of them, so treating patients will become a matter of skill. You will learn vital medical procedures while caring for people in stressful situations. Volunteering will be emotionally and physically taxing, but it will be worthwhile to be a part of a growing community that is solely concerned with helping people. All of these factors contribute to your development as a strong and resilient medical professional.

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