This is part 2 of a series on travel abroad as a working Physical Therapist. For previous posts, click “previous blogs” on the menu at the top of the page.
Whether you are following a significant other somewhere or you are looking to relocate abroad on your own, there are a lot of things you want to consider before and during the transition process. Hopefully my story will help those of you thinking about travel abroad decide to take that leap out of the US and help you figure out how to do it. The process is never ending, but the better prepared you are, the less frustrated you will get!
Like I mentioned in the first post, having a contact may be your greatest advantage in landing a job abroad. Think of a friend or family that lives abroad, a coworker that worked abroad or even someone that knows someone that worked or has contacts abroad. Six degrees of separation may work here! That is generally how most of us foreigners here in Qatar ended up where we are.
Since my husband was the one who took a job that was placing us overseas, I had to do a ton of research on the possible countries – Chile, Australia and Qatar – to see if any of them would be a place I could practice. Unlike many other professions, healthcare workers usually have either the burden of proving their proficiency through re-examination (who wants to take the boards again!) or through verification.
So, before you start packing your bags for some beautiful coastline, there’s a few things you will want to research, and then continue to research throughout the process. I’ll try to keep this as condensed as possible, but here’s some quick links if you don’t want to read all of it.
Given that we had 3 potential locations we could move to, I started by looking into the culture and the requirements for a PT in each country. A good place to start is the World Federation of Physical Therapy (http://www.wcpt.org). They have contact info for a ton of countries, including websites, emails, phone numbers and addresses. Awesome.
I started by emailing the contact for Chile. The biggest questions I was asking at first were 1. Do they accept a US licensure carte blanc, on a case by case basis, or do they require all international PT’s to take an examination? 2. Is Spanish (or Arabic for Qatar) a requirement or are there hospitals where the primary language among healthcare workers is English? I also checked out Chile’s physiotherapy webpage that I found on www.WCPT.org and googled hospitals in Santiago, Chile. Everything was in Spanish. The email I received from their PT association was in Spanish. Fluency seemed like a must at this point. So for Chile, I waited on proceeding until I had a better idea if we would end up there.
Next was Australia. I started by checking out http://www.physiotherapy.asn.au but also contacted a college professor as well, knowing that she practiced there. In Australia, they evaluate each candidate on a case by case basis, but chances are, an exam was likely. Now, being 6 years out of school, I would want to know that I would be here for at least a few years if I was going to study for another board. Again, further search was put on hold. But I couldn’t help to check out New Zealand, since I was looking in that part of the world. http://www.physioboard.org.nz/index.php?Registration-Overseas-QualifiedPhysiotherapists . Now this is the kind of information I was looking for! Direct information on how to apply as an international PT. Perfect. Now only if we were going there instead!
I saved Qatar for last. This is where we ended up and was probably the most complex process I have ever endured! I began with checking out background information on Qatar which is a moderately liberal/conservative Islamic country in the middle east. We have to be married to live together. I can drive, walk around, and do most things as I would in the US. It is respectful to have my shoulders and knees covered when in public. English is the common language given the hundreds of languages that are spoken here. So it seemed I should be able to transition here with moderate ease.
We then started by asking my husband’s company a ton of questions to find out if I should come over with my husband of if I needed to wait before I made my move. The big questions – sponsorship, benefits and education qualifications. I will get into these topics in the next blog and the details of what I specifically had to do to be eligible to work in Qatar.