Missionary nursing also referred to as refugee nursing is a unique nursing path that combines nursing and healthcare with traveling as a missionary or as an aide to refugees. Missionary nursing is described as nursing cross-culturally to provide nursing care for the suffering and to present religion to those they are serving. Indeed, they believe that physical and spiritual healing go hand in hand. Both types of nursing are more than a career, but a calling and vocation for those who feel drawn to it.
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Missionary nurses can work throughout the world, but often work in third-world countries. Missionary nurses / refugee nurses bring basic health care to communities worldwide that are generally poor and underserved. Many of the duties of the missionary or refugee nurse involve education about healthcare and nutrition. They may assist in setting up or creating health clinics where none have ever existed. Often, rather than providing direct healthcare, missionary nurses and refugee nurses will work alongside local nurses, providing training and education to them so that they can better serve their community in the long term. There are many organizations to look into that include both the religious and nonreligious, such as Doctors without Borders, the Peace Corps, Red Cross, WHO (World Health Organization) and Unicef, just to name a few major organizations providing healthcare worldwide. Often, the work for missionary nurses does not end when they return home, but extends to include raising awareness and money for medical supplies, clean water, the building of schools and medical facilities and related causes in the country where they served.
In order to become a missionary nurse or refugee nurse, you will need to become a registered nurse (RN) first. You may choose to earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), which takes four years to complete or earn an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a nursing diploma. Many religious universities offer classes focused on missionary nursing and would be an excellent place to begin your search if you are not currently a practicing nurse. Upon graduation, you will need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam, which is the National Council Licensure Examination. Once you earn your degree and pass your exam and any additional requirements your state may have set, you are legally able to practice and represent whichever nursing organization, church, or nonprofit group you may wish to travel with. Additionally, nurses traveling overseas will have to procure a work visa and ensure that they pass any necessary exam or qualifications required of the country where they will be working. Some missionary nurses have additional religious training as well as language training.
There is consistent need for dedicated missionary and refugee nurses throughout the troubled regions of the world. Finding the right organization through which to travel and serve is the most important task after you become an RN. Missionary nursing and refugee nursing are generally temporary, and are often done on a volunteer basis with a stipend to cover living expenses. Most nurses who travel this path in life seek personal and spiritual fulfillment, though the skills earned could certainly be applied to a nursing career back in the United States and could help advance your career and salary in a hospital or clinic further along in your career.
If this seems like the path you want to follow, there are many avenues and all have great potential, so get started now on earning your nursing degree. You may find this is the right path for you to provide healthcare to those who truly need it most.
(Sources: InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, Baylor University Louise Herrington School of Nursing, AskAMissionary.com)