I’m just beginning university and I’m interested in healthcare. Do you recommend I become a physician, nurse, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant?

“Spend a few days with an MD and an RN to compare.”

The best thing you can do is pray for God’s direction for you. Then follow each one of these positions for a couple of days and see how each practices in day to day life. Between the RN and the MD there are huge differences besides schooling. 

While some Physician’s Assistants practice overseas, from what I have found they are much more limited as many countries do not recognize the degree. 

If you go into nursing, go for the BSN (bachelor of science in nursing). Many countries will not license you for full-time service with an ADN (associate degree in nursing) because it omits community health education.

Answer from Lori, a RN who serves in Zimbabwe at Chidamoyo Christian Hospital.

“I recommend nurse practitioner.”

Being a nurse practitioner will give you several advantages. You will see patients and also be able to be involved in medical care in the U.S. should you later return. MDs are more and more in supervisory roles, so they actually see patients less and less.

Despite the fact that we American doctors are trained to feel insecure and always want to take just one more course, American doctors tend to be overtrained. I loved ICU work as a young physician. Much more quickly than I thought, though, I gravitated to outpatient office medicine and I was very happy. And I did not need to know “everything” like I had felt that I needed to when doing hospital medicine.

Answer from David, an physician internist who has served for eight years in Honduras and coordinates the medical aspects of several community development groups.

“All (except PA) are recognized and needed.”

There are needs overseas for physicians, nurses, and nurse practitioners. The idea of physician assistant hasn’t caught on. Specialist doctors, nurse instructors, and nurses for outlying clinics are still valuable. The needs outside the big cities are enormous and actually greater than in the days of the first missionary doctors. 

Answer from Harold Adolph, an MD who served in three Ethiopian hospitals over thirty years.

“Consider these four factors.”

Your decision depends on several factors, in addition to prayer and seeking God’s mind on it:

1. Assess how well you are doing in university and how much you enjoy studying.
2. Pray about where in the world God might be leading you to serve, and find out which category of worker is most needed and can most readily get a visa.
3. Assess your desire to work under someone else versus being in charge.
4. Consider how much hands-on medical or nursing care you would like to give.

Answer from Cynthia Hale, who served as an MD with the United Mission to Nepal.

“I recommend being a physician, nurse, or nurse practitioner.”

I strongly recommend being a physician, nurse, or nurse practitioner. There are many countries who have no idea at all of what a physician’s assistant might be. If you contemplate being in a hospital with surgical facilities, and ever being there alone, by all means be a physician with surgical training.

Answer from Donn, an MD who retired from ABWE (Association of Baptists for World Evangelism) after twenty-six years in Bangladesh.

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