Doctor giving checkups to underprivileged kids

12 Best Medical Mission Trips & Volunteer Opportunities in 2021

Discover the best medical mission trips and international volunteer opportunities available to healthcare workers

Doctor giving checkups to underprivileged kids

Best Medical Mission Trips:

  1. Samaritan’s Purse
  2. International Medical Relief
  3. Mercy Ships
  4. Plan My Gap Year
  5. Medical Missions Outreach
  6. Global Health Outreach
  7. Nursing Beyond Borders
  8. Medico
  9. International Volunteer HQ
  10. Foundation For Peace
  11. Mission of Hope
  12. Ssamba Foundation

Healthcare professionals are a breed apart. Day-in and day-out, they fully commit themselves to serving those who can’t help themselves. They step forward in times of emergency to serve on the front lines of patient care – and often at risk to their own wellbeing.

Yet, for all of their selfless dedication to others, there is a large number of healthcare professionals who yearn to give even more. They see suffering in underprivileged communities around the globe, suffering that could be significantly alleviated with basic medical attention that we sometimes take for granted. For those who see those needs and feel the burning desire to act, volunteering for a medical mission trip may be just the answer.

Medical mission trips for nurses, nursing students, and physical therapists are plentiful, but finding the specific medical mission trip that best suits your goals can be challenging. The goal of this article is to help you identify the best organizations providing medical mission trips as well as inform you about the opportunities for – and responsibilities of – a medical mission trip volunteer.

What is a Medical Mission Trip?

A medical mission trip is an organized journey made by medical professionals and students, usually to a foreign country, to provide medical care to the local population over a specific period of time. Some trips are organized through religious organizations and include spiritual outreach, while others are strictly secular in nature. Trips can last anywhere from one week to several months in duration.

All medical mission trips are different. Each sponsoring organization are in need of a specific mix of healthcare professionals and students, including doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, physical therapists, EMTs, and the like. Some medical missions have a narrow focus, such as ophthalmology or dentistry. Other trips provide a far more generalized scope of healthcare service. As you research an organization’s trips, most are pretty clear about which disciplines they need.

What are the Benefits of a Medical Mission Trip?

In the developing world, a modest amount of skilled medical care goes a very long way. It’s no stretch of the imagination to say that the medicines, technologies, and protocols that we don’t think twice about can – and will – save many lives there. For healthcare professionals who practice their craft close to home, the opportunity to bring desperately needed healthcare services to underserved people living in far-from-ideal conditions provides a heart-warming sense of personal enrichment.

You can expect medical mission trips to hone your knowledge, skillsets, and problem-solving capabilities. These trips will provide plenty of hands-on clinical experience and train you to deliver maximum care with limited resources. In the end, these trips will make you a better practitioner, reinforce your passion for medicine, and show current and future employers that your boundless capacity for care makes hiring or promoting you an easy decision.

What You Should Know Before Volunteering for a Medical Mission Trip

If you’re serious about volunteering for a medical mission trip, you need to consider its impact on your career or schooling. Medical mission trip organizers schedule mission trips with no regard for your PTO status or educational calendar. So you will want to search for trips that begin and end in time for you to carry on with your career development back home.

Also, some hospitals and other healthcare organizations organize their own medical missions. Volunteers from within those organizations are often not required to use their PTO for those missions.

Young hispanic volunteer man with arms crossed

How Do You Know Which Medical Mission Trip is Right for You?

As you conduct your research for potential medical mission trips, you’ll find organizers are usually pretty clear about the specific healthcare disciplines they require for their listed missions. Nurses are often the most frequently sought-after professional positions, but a number of medical missions have assignments for students, including student nurses and pre-med students.

One of the key benefits of volunteering for a medical mission trip is to gain practical experience in a specific discipline – like surgical nursing or physical therapy. During your research, pay close attention to the mission description to make sure that the mission’s goals align with your career and educational goals.

What to Expect from a Medical Mission Trip

Once you have been accepted to serve on a medical mission trip, its organizers will brief you on the mission’s details, including travel logistics (international and local), lodging, specific duty assignments, daily work schedules, clothing requirements, hygiene needs, personal and group security protocols, required inoculations, food and water safety protocols, emergency contingency plans, the use of interpreters, and more.

Most medical mission trips are shorter in duration (one to two weeks), so you should expect to work hard from the minute you arrive at the destination. While some local sightseeing may be available to you, the primary focus of the best medical mission trips will be on the care you provide. Most meals are often provided at no additional cost, but you may have additional expenses that you will want to clarify through the trip organizer prior to leaving.

How Much Do Medical Mission Trips Cost?

Long-duration missions will often compensate you for your time and service, but short-duration missions usually do not. Short-duration missions will cover only a certain portion of your expenses. These shorter missions will also likely have application fees that can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars to help cover some of your expenses.

In researching your own trip, the best medical mission trip organizers will be perfectly forthcoming about which expenses are covered by the application and trip fees. Some organizations may cover most of your expenses, while others may require you to cover such expenses as international or local travel, food while in transit, lodging, or travel insurance.

How Remote are Medical Mission Trip Destinations?

Medical mission trips often venture to the far corners of the Earth. While some destinations may be in established cities with reliable infrastructure and certain amenities, many locations can be very remote with primitive living and working conditions and limited resources. Trip organizers will tell you about the conditions you’ll be working under and provide you with tips to help you best manage them.

Start Your Search for the Best Medical Mission Trip Here

Samaritan's Purse logo

1. Samaritan’s Purse

Founded in 1970

What is Samaritan’s Purse?

Samaritan’s Purse is a non-denominational, faith-based Christian organization that helps meet the spiritual and physical needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine. Their medical mission trips can range in duration anywhere from one week to four weeks.

Volunteers serve in existing mission hospitals and clinics worldwide, providing care free of charge to all in need. Healthcare services provided span from routine and preventative medical care to surgical and rehabilitation care.

Where Does Samaritan’s Purse Serve?

Samaritan’s Purse operates mission hospitals in Africa, Asia, Oceana, Latin America, and the Middle East. A few of the upcoming medical mission trips currently planned include:

  • Lebama, Gabon
  • Egbe, Nigeria
  • Galmi, Niger
  • Curahuasi, Peru
  • Balfate, Honduras
  • Mango, Togo
  • Peten, Guatemala
  • Malumghat, Bangladesh

What Kinds of Medical Professionals Does Samaritan’s Purse Need?

  • Registered Nurses
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Other nursing disciplines
  • Physicians
  • Dentists
  • Physical and Occupational Therapists
  • Physician Assistants

Learn More About Samaritan’s Purse

Click here to learn more about Samaritan’s Purse.

 

International Medical Relief logo

2. International Medical Relief

Founded in 2002

What is International Medical Relief?

International Medical Relief (IMR) is an international, non-governmental organization dedicated to providing medical services and public health education to underserved and vulnerable communities around the world. The clinic IMR provides acute medical care, dental care, and community health education.

Volunteer teams consist of medical and non-medical personnel, including physicians, dentists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, EMS, physical therapists, and students, to name a few. Nurses and physical therapists work side-by-side with doctors in highly collaborative teams to provide comprehensive care for patients.

Where Does International Medical Relief Serve?

International Medical Relief operates medical clinics domestically and abroad,  including in Africa, Asia, Oceana, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Upcoming medical mission trips include:

  • La Antigua, Guatemala
  • Nairobi, Kenya
  • Palompon, Philippines
  • Manaslu Valley, Nepal
  • Rama Island, Nicaragua
  • Arusha, Tanzania
  • Port-au-Prince, Haiti
  • Cusco, Peru

What Kinds of Medical Professionals Does Foundation For International Medical Relief Need?

  • Registered Nurses
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Other nursing disciplines
  • Physicians
  • Dentists
  • Physical and Occupational Therapists
  • Physician Assistants

Learn More About International Medical Relief

Click here to learn more about International Medical Relief.

 

Mercy Ships logo

3. Mercy Ships

Founded in 1978

What is Mercy Ships?

Mercy Ships is a faith-based global charity that operates hospital ships and medical clinics. With more than 50% of the world’s population living near a coast, Mercy Ships can provide more life-changing surgeries for more people in state-of-the-art hospital ships at no cost to the patient. Their mission is to bring hope and healing to the world’s poor regardless of race, gender, or religion.

Volunteers and the ship’s crew come from all over the globe and speak many different languages, but all volunteers must speak and understand English. Volunteer missions can range anywhere from two weeks to two years. Depending on the role, volunteer opportunities may require a minimal commitment length beyond two weeks.

Where Does Mercy Ships Serve?

Mercy Ships have made 592 ports in 55 developing nations and 18 developed nations around the world.

What Kinds of Medical Professionals Does Mercy Ships Need?

Short-term volunteer opportunities include:

  • Operating Room Nurses
  • PACU Nurses
  • Ward Nurses (Adult and Pediatric ICU)
  • Wound Care Team Nurses
  • Radiology Technologists
  • Sterile Processing Technicians

Learn More About Mercy Ships

Click here to learn more about Mercy Ships.

 

Plan My Gap Year logo

4. Plan My Gap Year

Founded in 2011

What is Plan My Gap Year?

Plan My Gap Year is a volunteer abroad organization that offers a wide range of high-impact programs specifically designed for students who want to make a difference. The safety of volunteers is the top priority at Plan My Gap Year, and all necessary precautions are made to ensure the wellbeing of student-age volunteers.

Plan My Gap Year offers a variety of missions that expose nursing students to a wide variety of experiences in all branches of nursing. Their overseas nursing missions will give you a first-hand look at healthcare practices in developing nations. Nursing students will support local nurses with basic but invaluable health checks on patients. At the conclusion of the program, students receive a certificate of completion.

Where Does Plan My Gap Year Serve?

Plan My Gap Year has nursing missions that send students to South America, Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Upcoming nursing mission trips range from 2-24 weeks in duration with destinations that include:

  • Quito, Ecuador
  • Kumasi, Ghana
  • Faridabad, India
  • Arusha, Tanzania
  • Hanoi, Vietnam

What Kinds of Medical Professionals Does Plan My Gap Year Need?

Plan My Gap Year’s nursing mission trips accept all nursing students.

Learn More About Plan My Gap Year

Click here to learn more about Plan My Gap Year.

 

Medical Missions Outreach logo

5. Medical Missions Outreach

Founded in 2003

What is Medical Missions Outreach?

Medical Missions Outreach is a faith-based organization that serves underdeveloped countries around the world to provide quality, ethical medical care to those who need it most. Patients and their families are offered spiritual support in addition to the medical, dental, and surgical services at no cost. All medical services delivered are made in coordination with local professionals and hospitals.

Medical Missions Outreach travels with its own limited laboratory and a full pharmacy. Additionally, patients with mobility issues or other functional medical needs will receive care from physical and occupational therapists to help provide long-term relief from their suffering.

Where Does Medical Missions Outreach Serve?

Medical Missions Outreach operates medical clinics in Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, Asia, and Latin America. Upcoming medical mission trips range from 8-10 days in duration and include:

  • Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
  • Sighetu Marmetiei, Romania
  • Port Elizabeth, South Africa
  • Bishoftu, Ethiopia
  • El Progresso, Honduras
  • Chipata, Zambia

What Kinds of Medical Professionals Does Medical Missions Outreach Need?

  • Registered Nurses
  • Physicians
  • Physician Assistants
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Licensed Practical Nurses
  • Certified Nursing Assistants
  • Physical Therapists

Learn More About Medical Missions Outreach

Click here to learn more about Medical Missions Outreach.

 

Global Health Outreach logo

6. Global Health Outreach

Founded in 1931

What is Global Health Outreach?

As part of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations’ organization, Global Health Outreach is a short-term medical missions program that sends 40 to 50 medical, dental, and surgical teams around the globe each year to provide care for the poor and needy.

Global Health Outreach teams provide primary care medicine and dentistry. Surgical teams work in association with small and large hospitals in the region.

Where Does Christian Medical & Dental Associations Serve?

Medical Missions Outreach operates medical clinics in Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, Asia, and Latin America. Upcoming medical mission trips can range from 7-14 days in duration with planned destinations that include:

  • Dominican Republic
  • Middle East
  • Greece
  • Honduras
  • Zambia

What Kinds of Medical Professionals Does Global Health Outreach Need?

  • Nurses
  • Physicians
  • Physician Assistants
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Physical Therapists
  • Students
  • Pharmacists

Learn More About Global Health Outreach

Click here to learn more about Global Health Outreach.

Click here to learn more about its parent organization, the Christian Medical & Dental Associations.

 

Nursing Beyond Borders logo in grey

7. Nursing Beyond Borders

Founded in 2016

What is Nursing Beyond Borders?

Nursing Beyond Borders is an international, non-governmental organization that provides healthcare and education to orphans and poor children around the globe. Nursing Beyond Borders sends teams of nurses to serve in an established network of partnered orphanages, shelters, underserved schools, and local clinics with a focus on disease prevention.

Nursing Beyond Borders conducts focused healthcare initiatives, workshops, and partnerships with local providers to provide a sustainable model of care that results in free dental, medical, and optometry care – as well as decreased incidences of preventable diseases.

Where Does Nursing Beyond Borders Serve?

Nursing Beyond Borders has sent nursing teams around the world and operates in coordination with local organizations in Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America, and Oceana. Upcoming medical mission trips range from 7-14 days in duration and include the following destinations:

  • Luang Prabang, Laos
  • Reynosa, Mexico
  • Gbawe, Ghana
  • Cebu, Philippines
  • Cape Coast, Ghana
  • Tacloban, Philippines
  • Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Bucerias, Mexico
  • Puerta Vallarta, Mexico
  • Manila, Philippines

What Kinds of Medical Professionals Does Nursing Beyond Borders Need?

  • Registered Nurses
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Licensed Vocational Nurses

Learn More About Nursing Beyond Borders

Click here to learn more about Nursing Beyond Borders.

 

Medico logo

8. Medico

Founded in 1990

What is Medico?

Medico, short for Medical, Eye, and Dental International Care Organization, is a non-denominational humanitarian service organization that provides comprehensive healthcare services to the poor in Central America. In partnership with other humanitarian organizations, Medico coordinates short-term medical mission trips and organizes special initiatives to address a wide range of health-related issues for the impoverished local populations.

Where Does Medico Serve?

Medico offers free healthcare and health education programs to poor and underserved communities in Honduras and Nicaragua. Medical mission trips typically last from 7-10 days with upcoming destinations that include:

  • Auka, Honduras
  • Uhi (Gracias a Dios), Honduras
  • Lake Tabila, Honduras
  • Morocon, Honduras

What Kinds of Medical Professionals Does Medico Need?

  • Registered Nurses
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Pharmacists
  • Pharmacist Techs
  • Physicians
  • Dentists
  • Optometrists
  • Dental Hygienists

Learn More About Medico

Click here to learn more about Medico.

 

International Volunteer HQ logo

9. International Volunteer HQ

Founded in 2007

What is International Volunteer HQ?

The medical volunteer abroad programs and medical mission trips of International Volunteer HQ provide the opportunity for you to work alongside qualified medical professionals and gain valuable international experience while delivering invaluable healthcare services to the local population.

International Volunteer HQ has opportunities for healthcare professionals and students of every stage and skill level. For those seeking volunteer opportunities in a specialty field, International Volunteer HQ will work with you to find a medical volunteer project that best aligns with your area of medical expertise.

Where Does International Volunteer HQ Serve?

International Volunteer HQ medical mission trip volunteers work side-by-side with local medical professionals in various settings, including clinics, hospitals, and assisted living centers. Medical mission trips last anywhere from 1-24 weeks with upcoming destinations that include:

  • San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Livingstone, Zambia
  • Lima, Peru
  • Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
  • Delhi, India
  • Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
  • Cordoba, Argentina
  • Antigua, Guatemala
  • Kerala, India
  • Kandy, Sri Lanka

What Kinds of Medical Professionals Does International Volunteer HQ Need?

  • Registered Nurses
  • Certified Nursing Assistants
  • Nursing Students
  • Pharmacists
  • Paramedics
  • EMTs
  • Lab Technicians

Learn More About International Volunteer HQ

Click here to learn more about International Volunteer HQ.

 

Foundation for Peace logo

10. Foundation For Peace

Founded in 2002

What is Foundation For Peace?

Foundation For Peace schedules several medical mission trips per year to the Caribbean island of Hispaniola and one trip per year to Kenya to serve the poor and those without regular access to basic medical care. Temporary medical clinics are established in the largest available structure in the communities they serve.

In conjunction with local physicians, the Foundation For Peace Medical Director supervises the medical teams to ensure all medical decisions are consistent with that country’s medical practices. Foundation For Peace also establishes a temporary pharmacy stocked with a variety of prescription and OTC medications. All medications and medical services are provided free of charge.

Where Does Foundation For Peace Serve?

Foundation For Peace focuses its efforts on the poorest communities in Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Kenya. Medical mission trips last anywhere between 4-14 days.

What Kinds of Medical Professionals Does Foundation For Peace Need?

  • Nurses
  • Physicians
  • Physician Assistants
  • Students
  • Pharmacists

Learn More About Foundation For Peace

Click here to learn more about Foundation For Peace.

 

Mission of Hope logo

11. Mission of Hope

Founded in 1998

What is Mission of Hope?

Mission of Hope is a faith-based organization dedicated to the idea that entire nations can be transformed one life at a time by focusing on fulfilling the nutritional, educational, spiritual, and medical needs of every life they encounter.

Mission of Hope operates its own brick-and-mortar clinic, mobile clinics, a prosthetics lab, medical outreach programs, and community health initiatives to meet the needs of the underprivileged population by providing free access to healthcare. Medical mission trips help with the staffing and operations of these year-round clinics, and trips can be tailored to match your skillset with the needs of the community you serve.

Where Does Mission of Hope Serve?

Mission of Hope medical mission trip volunteers work side-by-side with local medical professionals in a range of settings, including clinics, hospitals, and assisted living centers. Medical mission trips last anywhere from 1-24 weeks with upcoming destinations that include:

  • Haiti
  • Dominican Republic
  • Key West, Florida

What Kinds of Medical Professionals Does Mission of Hope Need?

  • Physicians
  • Physician Assistants
  • Registered Nurses
  • Licensed Practical Nurses
  • Certified Nursing Assistants
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Registered Pharmacists
  • Physical Therapists
  • EMTs
  • Students

Learn More About Mission of Hope

Click here to learn more about Mission of Hope.

 

Ssamba Foundation logo

12. Ssamba Foundation

Founded in 2006

What is Ssamba Foundation?

The Ssamba Foundation strives to improve the health and wellbeing of the Ugandan people by supporting small community health centers in partnership with large government hospitals. They offer short- and long-term medical volunteering placements in local clinics, mobile clinics, hospitals, and outreach centers.

Medical volunteers work to diminish the effects of tropical diseases, HIV/AIDS, and other preventable/treatable diseases. The Ssamba foundation will work with you to help you advance within your specialty, but your volunteer roles will be assigned according to your level of expertise. Students usually start by observing doctors and nurses in addition to participating in local medical and healthcare intervention projects.

Where Does Ssamba Foundation Serve?

The Ssamba Foundation focuses its efforts exclusively within Uganda. Like its agricultural and water purification projects, its medical mission teams serve the communities around the Mukomo District in the Central Region of Uganda, just east of the capital city of Kampala.

What Kinds of Medical Professionals Does Ssamba Foundation Need?

Ssamba Foundation volunteers are asked to serve for a minimum of four weeks, but accommodations can be made for shorter missions on a case-by-case basis. Volunteer positions most needed include:

  • Nurses
  • Physicians
  • Physician Assistants
  • Student Nurses
  • Pre-Med Students
  • Physical Therapists

Learn More About Ssamba Foundation

Click here to learn more about Ssamba Foundation.

 

Female nurse volunteering at health fair

Finding the Best Medical Mission Trips & Volunteer Opportunities

By volunteering for a medical mission trip, you open the door to levels of personal enrichment and professional development that no other type of service can duplicate. The willingness to sacrifice your own time, effort, and money to bring relief, health, and hope to the underprivileged says much about you personally. And doing so with limited resources and support says even more about you professionally.

Such selflessness is not uncommon for those working in healthcare. If you’re interested in starting a fulfilling career in healthcare, Provo College offers a variety of healthcare programs to help you find your path. For many, the Medical Assisting program at Provo College launches their healthcare careers in as little as nine months. For those with even higher aspirations, the hybrid (80% online/20% in-person) format of our Bachelor of Science Nursing program gets their careers launched while accommodating a busy work/life schedule.

Click here to learn more about all the programs and opportunities available to you at Provo College.