Globetrotting As a Paramedic

SPGMED

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Hey guys. I want to preface this post by saying, I am aware that there are a number of threads containing information I am asking for. I still post because I want to get opinions on the specific questions I have from people who have "been there and done that."

I am a paramedic in the United States. I have over 10 years in EMS (6 as a paramedic). I have worked for a number of agencies in a number of settings around the US. I have played around several times in my career with the idea of traveling overseas and working. I have gone as far as applying, interviewing, getting offers and backing away last minute with a number of services. For one reason or another, it never seemed like the right time. That is until now.

I have truly enjoyed my career in the US but want to see other parts of this world we live in. Not as a short term visitor either. I want to move around and take up residence in places like Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe. I am fully aware of the existence of companies like International SOS, Global Rescue, EXMED, etc. I also know that I can get hired in the middle east with different ambulance services in the UAE. I am not asking for a list of places I can apply to.

I want to hear about your specific experience traveling overseas. Where did you start your career? How much experience did you have when you left? Where did you work? What was it like? Did you return to the states (if thats where you were from) or did you stay out there and continue to work abroad? What companies did you love? What services did you hate? Did you work for a US service stationed overseas or did you work for a local ambulance service or remote medical company? Did you work rotational assignments or were you placed in a single location? Did you run into issues with your certification? Did you travel alone or with family?

Any information would prove useful. I also wanted to add, that I am looking to travel with my girlfriend (who is not in medicine). So if anyone had a similar situation I would love to hear about that too. Thanks and look forward to hearing back :)

-Sean
 

ExpatMedic0

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Hey Sean, Firstly, Sorry for the late reply, I have been slacking when it comes to following the forum lately. Below are answers to your questions based on my own experiences.
Where did you start your career? I started my overseas medic career in 2010 in Saudi Arabia.

How much experience did you have when you left? I had been an EMT for maybe around 5 years and a medic for around 3.

Where did you work? I have worked in Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates. I have been on 3 different contracts in the middle east and am going on 3 years contracting and 5 years overseas (I took 2 years off and lived in Europe).

What was it like? Did you return to the states (if thats where you were from) or did you stay out there and continue to work abroad?
Its been good so far, no I did not return to the states, I go back to visit for 3 or 4 weeks every year and that is it. I am not sure if I will return one day or not, I got married to someone in Europe so it complicates things a little.

What companies did you love? What services did you hate? I really do not want to comment publicly on this question as many of the places I have worked for monitor this forum. Honestly though I have no regrets about any of them, PM me if you want for information on that or anything else.

Did you work for a US service stationed overseas or did you work for a local ambulance service or remote medical company? I applied with a couple US services overseas and was hired by one in Kuwait, but declined it for a better contract else where, so no I have not. I have only worked directly for local ambulance services or as a private contractor for the local ambulance service.

Did you work rotational assignments or were you placed in a single location? I did work rotational assignments for about a year on one of the 3 contracts I have done. It was an oil field remote medical type rotation. The other 2 contracts I lived in the single location which I worked.

Did you run into issues with your certification? It use to be a challenge, especially back in 2010, however its much better now. Since the NREMT started accepting f5 virtual learning you can do %100 of your NREMT CME's online with places like "Distance cme" for example. Depending on who you work for sometimes they provide you with the learning you need, sometimes they don't.

Did you travel alone or with family? I started alone, but met my wife in the process of traveling internationally.
 

SandpitMedic

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Great post Expat!
 

akflightmedic

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I yearn for the day when my company is listed as the "known places" to work for....it happened once on a military forum, blew my socks off! :)
 

akflightmedic

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Where did you start your career? My overseas career started because of my desire to fly and do the extreme so I have to back up a bit. Despite getting flight credentials I could not break into the tight market in FL, so to realize my goal I moved my entire family to Alaska (above Arctic Circle) and became a flight medic in one of the most extreme, austere, remote, yet very progressive/aggressive (medically speaking) environments still available in the US. This prepped me for future work to come. I then had opportunity to be a flight medic in the Philippines working as a subcontractor under DynCorp. The guy I replaced had quit for a job with some company called "KBR" who was in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Yes I had no clue who KBR was then).

The contract in the PI ended so I called up the guy I replaced and asked if KBR had openings. He helped me with a reference and off to Houston I went for their orientation. I was slated for Iraq and 2 days before deploying they told me I was going to Afghanistan. I shrugged my shoulders and said ok as I did not know squat about either one and one war zone is same as other...so I thought. I spent 2 years working for KBR and I did everything possible to learn what I could on their dime. I progressed through the ranks, watched and observed how crappy contractors in general can be and I learned who to work for or who not to work for (this is a VERY important lesson).

During my two years there, I saw people come and go, then some come again. They were always job hopping, looking for the next big adventure. Be careful of this once you enter this field. The contracting world is actually quite small and your name will get out. If a contract is decent, just ride it out, set your goals, stay focused on them and accomplish them. Too many people start rapid goal changing once the dollars flow and they lose sight to the point where they are "locked in the contracting world", by this I mean returning to a normal world or normal wage is no longer feasible, mostly due to their poor planning and high spending. You can learn and experience so much by traveling abroad, working abroad and save a ton of money...but you have got to have a plan and stick to it!

After 2 years with KBR, I had opportunity to take an EMS Chief position. The location was in Afghanistan and it gave me a new experience from a Project Manager perspective and I was liaising with high govt officials. Again, I absorbed the knowledge and experience and started thinking how I could work for myself. After 2 years on that job, surviving cut throat back stabbing I launched my own company in 2009...the rest is history/ongoing and too long for this thread.

How much experience did you have when you left? 12 years as a paramedic, 2 years as Flight Medic. Note that a lot of employers have inhouse training for you, example KBR pumped us through a 40 hour Remote Duty Medic course. However if you want to make yourself marketable, there are several courses you should take now on your own dime. Additionally, a lot of remote medical jobs also have a safety element. So there is crossover learning required and being safety affords you another potential career path, quite lucrative one actually.

Where did you work? Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, Alaskan Arctic, Philippines and numerous national disaster responses as temporary subcontractor.

What was it like?
It is an amazing journey. There are good places, bad places, but nothing compares. You get to learn and experience local culture, new languages, new perspectives on how medicine is viewed...an important concept to maintain is to not try to impart your views or your way of doing things on everyone else. Observe, listen and share. Understand why they do things the way they do. Open your mind (which is a tough thing to do as a 'Murikan!)

Did you return to the states (if thats where you were from) or did you stay out there and continue to work abroad? I have a family, have had one before I ever departed FL. So I did return home. However, if I did not have a wife during some of those times, I surely would have brought one home from one of my many destinations. :) Since I was abroad working, I did take my family on a lot of overseas vacations and it was the work over there which allowed me to afford it. Additionally, by staying out of the USA, a certain portion of my income was tax exempt. If we did not have kids...I would easily have relocated my wife and stayed out of USA entirely. I stand by this even now...traveling the world will do this to you. It will open your eyes to a world most of us do not imagine and create a desire within you to stay there as opposed to here. When you do come home, I caution you...it is difficult to relate these stories and feelings to those who have never gone. You come back with a whole new appreciation and you cannot believe the many conveniences we have at our disposal and the amount of unhappiness/complaining which goes on by those who do not know.

What companies did you love?
Every company has its pros and cons. It is up to you to do your research and find those which align with your goals and plans. There are tons of Facebook groups and blogs which will steer you in the right direction. If the company is bad, you will know about it. We all network and share...we try to look out for each other. When I worked for KBR, so many people complained and I never understood why. Sure at the time it was one of the "lower paying" jobs in the region...I made around 9K a month, but I had ok housing, good food, internet, the check was always on time and in full and I had a decent and affordable insurance plan. I would hear about others who got more money but no insurance or payday was late or crummy conditions...that is why I did not jump ship. Rode out the BS supervisors who never should have been in charge, endured the stupid rules and regs...and stayed on task. Simple.

What services did you hate?
My posts are watched by others in the industry so I cannot slam openly. Like I said, lot of FB groups where you can learn tons of information, network with others and they can help direct you on what certs to obtain, where to apply and possibly name drop. A LOT of the jobs in the overseas market are by name drop. Maintain a solid rep, do what you say, and people will help you.

Did you work for a US service stationed overseas or did you work for a local ambulance service or remote medical company?
I have done all the above. Each has their own pros and cons.

Did you work rotational assignments or were you placed in a single location? With KBR I was all over Afghanistan, Iraq and back to Afghanistan. I saw every little S*it hole FOB and enjoyed some of the larger bases. When I became EMS Chief, I stayed in one spot. I actually did not mind roaming when I was with KBR. Conditions were bad many times but it gave me far more exposure than the Fobbitts who never left the larger bases yet found every reason to complain (like when the chow hall was out of sour cream or when Burger King ran out of pickles) :)

Did you run into issues with your certification? Never. I maintained NR the entire time and a couple state certs. A lot of companies have in house CME as well or you can schedule some during your RnR. But in these past few years with everything being available online, it is even easier now than it was then.

Did you travel alone or with family?
I took my family to Alaska. They were not allowed anywhere else, not that I would have taken them anyways. If we did not have children, I would easily have gotten my wife employed in some other non-medical role and then we would have just done that. We do take a lot of vacations though and I hope my experiences and wanderlust rub off on the kids and they tackle the world in the same way as I have trying to appreciate all the different aspects.
 
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SPGMED

SPGMED

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Fantastic posts guys! Thanks so much for writing back. I appreciate the information. I guess my main curiosity about working overseas is figuring out just how sustainable and long term it can be. I'm hoping that I can find a way as a U.S. trained paramedic to live and work in other countries without too much restriction.
 

akflightmedic

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People have been expat medic'ing since the early 80's....I think it is fairly sustainable and long term.
 

TransportJockey

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Expat medic has always interested me. It sounds fun
 

akflightmedic

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Of course...there are a lot of female contractors of EVERY job type including medics. Some sites are unable to support females but the majority have women.
 

GrimmyGrimes

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Sorry if this has been discussed in a forum I haven't gotten to yet, as I'm a new member, but I understand that contracts most likely vary, but what (if any) is an average or normal deployment duration? I did a few years as a wildland firefighter for a private service prior to moving to the Feds, so I can mildly relate to the variability and uncertainty of deployments and flexibility required. But is there a norm?

Also I've been workimg as medic for New Orleans, with a busy 911 experience around six or seven years now, but I'll be pushing 40 soonish and wondering if age is going to be a factor against me when applying. Thanks for your time and great insite with everything I've read so far.
 

ExpatMedic0

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Sorry if this has been discussed in a forum I haven't gotten to yet, as I'm a new member, but I understand that contracts most likely vary, but what (if any) is an average or normal deployment duration? I did a few years as a wildland firefighter for a private service prior to moving to the Feds, so I can mildly relate to the variability and uncertainty of deployments and flexibility required. But is there a norm?

Also I've been workimg as medic for New Orleans, with a busy 911 experience around six or seven years now, but I'll be pushing 40 soonish and wondering if age is going to be a factor against me when applying. Thanks for your time and great insite with everything I've read so far.
Nah your good. Maybe after 50 some contracts might care. The big thing is if your remote or Austre and you have chronic medical conditions or aren't physically capable of basic task or coping with weather conditions. Almost all overseas contractor jobs or local expat jobs require you pass a comprehensive physical exam and have lab work and imaging and stuff to make sure your healthy enough. I've worked with other expat medics who where even In there early 60s. Most most guys have been 30s and 40s. from my personal experience
 

ExpatMedic0

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By the way the last physical exam and medical screening I had to do for a contract was no joke. Lots of labs, vaccines, xrays ECG's, physicals ect. The Doctor asked if I was becoming an astronaut. I wish...
 

SandpitMedic

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By the way the last physical exam and medical screening I had to do for a contract was no joke. Lots of labs, vaccines, xrays ECG's, physicals ect. The Doctor asked if I was becoming an astronaut. I wish...
True. I got denied one time because my total cholesterol was too high (not fasting).
Went on a 7 day green tea diet and slid in under the radar on the next blood draw.

And I’m not an unhealthy guy- you’ve met me. I’m normal BMI and work out all the time. Just have an undying love for burritos and burgers!
 

SandpitMedic

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Also I've been workimg as medic for New Orleans, with a busy 911 experience around six or seven years now
If you’ve ever been on Nightwatch you’ll probably get hired. 😂
 

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