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A guide to becoming an ex-pat nurse in Thailand



No one has a choice as to where they’re born, or even where they grow up, but once the growing up has taken place, there is plenty of choice – the world is much smaller now than ever before, and moving to a new country to start a career, or carry on an old one, has never been easier.

Thailand is a popular choice for Americans, and particularly American nurses who feel they can really make a difference in the country. The good news is that it’s entirely possible for a nurse to move to Thailand and continue to practice; although some career choices are restricted for foreigners, nursing isn’t one of them, and since there is a nursing shortage in Thailand, nurses from abroad are usually welcomed, as long as they have the appropriate qualifications and experience.

Before we look at just how to become an ex-pat nurse in Thailand, let’s take a look at why nursing is required around the world.

The Work Is Interesting

If you like the security of a job that has a set routine every day, where you arrive at the same time, leave at the same time, and everything in between hardly varies from week to week, then nursing won’t be the right career for you. If, however, you’re craving something a little more interesting, perhaps even exciting, then nursing might be ideal.

Every day is different when you’re a nurse. You’ll be presented with a vast number of challenges that you need to solve, and you’ll be testing your knowledge, experience, and strength at all points. Without knowing what or who you’re going to be presented with from minute to minute, you’ll never have a dull moment as a nurse. Yes, it’s exhausting, but it’s worth it.

A guide to becoming an ex-pat nurse in Thailand | News by Thaiger

You Make a Difference

If you were to make a list of all the jobs in which someone can really make a difference, and in which their loss would be felt if they moved on to another workplace or quit or retired, nursing would be at the top for most people. Being in hospital is, thankfully, a rare event for most, but the fact that it doesn’t happen very often means that it can be even more frightening and upsetting if and when it does.

Without nurses, this situation would be even worse. Nurses are able to comfort patients, help them understand the procedures or conditions they have and are going through, and they treat the patients too. They liaise with other medical staff and patients’ families. They do everything, in fact, and they are the absolute backbone of any medical institute. A world without nurses would be a very difficult one to manage in.

When you are a nurse, you can leave your shift at the end of every day knowing you have made a positive impact on someone’s life. It is this feeling that will get you through even the hardest of days, and you can continue helping people for as long as possible.

There Are Many Opportunities

Nurse training can take place either online or offline. If you choose offline, in a traditional college, you’ll need to attend classes at set times, and the rest of your life will have to revolve around your studies. This might work well for someone right out of high school, or someone with no other responsibilities who can fully dedicate themselves to their learning, but it’s not right for everyone.

The advent of online learning has meant that more people than ever before are able to become nurses. They can learn in a place and at a time that suits them, and even if it takes them longer to gain their qualification, they can still earn it, and that’s what matters. They can earn it while still working full-time, while still taking care of their family, while still doing all the things that would have to be sacrificed if they went back to school instead of if they chose online learning. Because of this, there are many opportunities for people, including working abroad somewhere such as Thailand.

It’s a Calling

For some people, there really is no choice in the matter. They feel they are being called to be a nurse, and as strange as that might seem to someone who has not experienced it, it essentially means that there is nothing else they can see themselves doing; nursing is all they want and it’s what they focus on.

This combined with the flexibility of the job, the online learning aspect meaning it is open to more people than ever, the pay rates and the career progression paths (of which there are many) mean that nursing adds up to being the ideal profession to work towards and in.

A guide to becoming an ex-pat nurse in Thailand | News by Thaiger

Why Thailand?

We can easily see why people might want to become a nurse, and why those nurses are needed all around the world, but why choose Thailand? Here are some of the reasons:

  • The People

Simply put, the people of Thailand are welcoming and friendly. You will feel at home not because of the scenery (which is unlike anything you will have seen before), but because of the people who are surrounding you. As much as gorgeous sandy beaches and a stunning climate are great, if the people you’re with aren’t friendly, you won’t want to stay. In Thailand you can have the views, the beaches, and the people too. It’s ideal.

  • Mental Health and Fitness

When you are a nurse, you need to take care of yourself. You need to ensure your mental health is kept in check because you are going to be experiencing traumas along with your patients, and you need to remain physically fit because nursing is a physically demanding job. Being in Thailand can help you achieve both aims thanks to its clean air (out of the cities, at least) and a vast range of different physical activities to take part in. It’s a country that offers a great quality of life.

  • The Cost

If you’re looking for a simple life that doesn’t cost very much but offers a great deal in return, look into going to Thailand and working as a nurse. Your skills and qualifications will be much needed, and you can live on a fraction of the budget that you would at home. Granted, the salaries are lower too, to reflect the cost of living, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the less expensive and more meaningful existence that Thailand can offer you because of it.

Nursing in Thailand

Now that you know a little more about why moving to Thailand is a good idea (although please do your own research too – it’s crucial you’re armed with all the information you could need before making such a big move), and why nurses are needed there, you might be tempted to go. After all, even if you only do it for a year or so, it’s an experience like no other, and it’s something you’ll never forget. Read on to find out how to go about making this change.

  • Can It Be Done?

To begin with, you’ll need to know whether or not taking on a nursing position in Thailand is possible. As mentioned above, Thailand is protective of its professions, and likes to keep as many jobs for Thai-born people as possible. This seems only fair; it needs to keep its economy going. Professions such as agriculture, beauty, working with metals and precious stones, construction, driving, tour guiding, and making clothes are all out of reach for ex-pats. Nursing, however, is not. In fact, Thailand welcomes foreign nurses because there is a shortage of trained nurses in the country. Although do bear in mind that there are still some hurdles to jump over, and it’s not as easy as simply arriving in the country and walking into a hospital with your resume.

  • Speaking the Language

Although it’s not a pre-requisite as such, you’ll find you stand a much better chance of getting a job in a Thai hospital if you speak the language, or at least enough to be able to get by when talking to patients. Although you might find that doctors, other nurses, and clinical professionals do speak English because they’ve been educated to do so, normal local Thai people probably won’t, and it’s these people who, as a nurse, you’ll be trying to help most of the time. Speaking Thai will be a definite advantage.

  • Look for an Agency

The best thing you can do when you’re looking at the idea of moving to Thailand to be a nurse is to join an agency specifically for that purpose. When you do this, you’ll know that every potential job opening is a genuine one, and that all due diligence is carried out to ensure your safety and your happiness. No one wants to move many thousands of miles away only to find they’re not happy and they want to go home again.

  • Qualifications

Just like in any country, you need specific nursing qualifications to be a nurse in Thailand. You won’t be able to bypass any tests or be able to practice nursing until you have achieved at least RN status. Of course, once you arrive there is nothing to stop you from learning more, gaining additional qualifications such as an FNP, so that you can progress within the nursing field – online learning will facilitate this and you can make the most of your time and your career opportunities by having higher qualifications.

  • Work Permit

Even if you have all the qualifications and you’re part of an agency to help you find a suitable position, you are going to need the right work permits before you can obtain work in Thailand. To do this, you must apply for a visa, and this is done through the consulate, or the Royal Thai Embassy. Documents you need for this are: a passport (in date and valid), your non-immigration visa, all the evidence of your nursing qualifications including licenses, and your departure card.

Although if you’re traveling from the US you are technically exempt from requiring a visa until you have been in Thailand for 30 days (after which you do need one), if you’re planning on staying for a while, it makes sense to get this document sooner rather than later. You don’t want to be delayed in applying and then find you’re unable to work until it is obtained or, worse, that you have to leave the country altogether.

Once you have your visa, you then must apply for a nursing permit. You’ll need all the documents listed above, and you’ll need to take a test to confirm that you are competent and have the knowledge required to be a nurse in Thailand.

Is There Demand for Nurses in Thailand?

Before you go through the long application process and join an agency to become a nurse in Thailand, before you pack up everything you own and say goodbye to your friends and family, it’s a good idea to ensure you’ll be able to find a job when you arrive. The question that needs to be asked and answers is: is there is a demand for nurses in Thailand?

The answer is simple: yes. As mentioned above, the nursing shortage in Thailand means that nurses are definitely, desperately needed in the country, and this is why the barriers to employment have been reduced so significantly. Before the Alien Employment Act that was created in 2015, it was hard for non-nationals to become nurses in Thailand. When this act was passed and more people could come to the country, the pressure on the health service was reduced significantly, and this is why foreign nurses are still welcome now.

A guide to becoming an ex-pat nurse in Thailand | News by Thaiger

Things to Think About

Despite the fact that Thailand is a stunning place to live, and it will soothe your soul when you’re there, nurses aren’t paid a great deal – this is one of the reasons for the shortage. On average, a nurse will earn around 80,500 THB a month, which is about $2,700. However, the more degrees you have, the better; high nursing salaries can be as much as 127,000 THB, which is roughly $4,200.

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