What if the clogs and cheese just aren’t for you?
The Netherlands is a unique country with so much to offer. Beautiful cities, tall people, endless wheels of cheese, bikers ready to hit you at any moment, the list goes on. Despite all these perks, for some students the idea of staying in NL to practice Medicine is less than appealing. You could be a native Dutchie looking for adventure and excitement, or an international student struggling to fit in here and missing home. Luckily, there are plenty of options out there for every individual. The road might not be easy, and figuring out the how, where, and what might feel like a steep mountain to climb. To help along the way, this is a starting guide to the options for practising abroad with a Dutch medical degree.
If you are planning to stay in Europe to practice Medicine, then things luckily won’t be too complicated. If you have graduated with a Master degree and are BIG-registered, then you can work in principle in every EU country. There are agreements made within the EU to accept medical diplomas from other European countries. Sometimes there are additional requirements, like an exam or registration costs. However, it’s most likely the case that you won’t need to redo any part of your bachelor or master degree. As expected, you also need to demonstrate that you can fluently speak the language of the country you wish to practice in. This depends on your mother language, but a Dutch student who learned some German in high school won’t be able to practice in Germany without fluency. Therefore, It’s a good idea to brush up those language skills! After three years doing your internships in Dutch hospitals, it might take some effort to get even your Mother language up to par.
Maybe a hop over the North Sea is more appealing to you than staying in the EU, especially if you feel more comfortable in English than Dutch. Practising in the UK has become a bit more complicated since Brexit, but there are plenty of possibilities out there. The most important difference with the EU is that it is possible your diploma will not be recognized as equivalent to a UK medical degree. This judgement is made by the General Medical Council (GMC). Having a UK nationality does not play a role in this decision, only the location and university in which you obtained your degree. The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates will independently verify your qualifications. After this you must still prove English fluency. Unfortunately they cannot accept a bachelor in English (from English LC’s) as evidence, as all clinical experience is in Dutch in Groningen. You can take the IElTS or OET test to prove your English skills.
Do you wish to live the American dream and move across the world? As appealing as it sounds, the United States is one of the most difficult countries in the world to practice in as a foreign doctor. Unfortunately, there are very strict requirements for practising in the States and many highly-qualified doctors end up having to repeat parts of their education for a chance to practice. If you want to set up your career quickly without having to go back to the books, then the US is not the country for you. One tricky requirement is that they expect your bachelor education to include the pure sciences, like Physics, Chemistry, Biology. This is not included explicitly in the Bachelor here in Groningen, although you may come across it now and then in Physiology and Pharmacology. Most European students cover these topics already extensively in their secondary education, but this is not recognized by the US. Prepare to take these courses again at a university in the US if you plan to become registered there. Additionally, they require you to redo your internships and specialization in a US hospital. This can add a few extra years to your education before you can practice. Lastly, you will be expected to pass the Medical boards exam in the US, a difficult test that can take up to a year to study for even with six years of medical school behind your back. All in all, the American government purposefully makes it difficult for foreign doctors to practice in the US, so be prepared to spend a lot of extra time redoing aspects of your qualifications in order to work in the US as a doctor. This path is not the best choice for those ready to start their career and life in the near future.
Tropical Medicine/ Doctors without Borders
If you are looking for an adventure but would enjoy setting down in the Netherlands after all, then maybe specializing in Tropical Medicine is the right choice for you. After your Master program you can follow a specialist training in the Netherlands that prepares you to work abroad, mainly in developing countries. This specialization, Tropenarts, takes about two years. This training is focused on surgery, paediatrics, and obstetrics/gynaecology. It’s divided into two clinical parts, one in the Netherlands and one abroad. You also learn about public health, intercultural medicine and management. It prepares you to work in low-resource hospitals where women and children will be the main patient population. It’s the perfect specialization for those who aspire to join Doctors without Borders (Artsen Zonder Grenzen). After completing the training you can be placed in a wide array of countries who need support from European doctors. Overall, this is a great choice for those who seek an exciting job and want to see the world, but could see themselves returning to the Netherlands later in their life or career.
This all might sound intimidating to a young doctor looking to experience the world, but with a little research and ambition you can probably figure out a route to practising in the country of your dreams. Even though you will be graduating with a Dutch diploma, this doesn’t mean you have to stay in this flat, below-sea-level paradise forever. Keep your mind open and be ready to encounter some challenges, but with enough determination you will find what works for you!
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