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How to Become a Missionary Nurse: From Education to Career

Those who work in nursing often feel called to become a nurse because they want to help people. They want to make a difference. Then there are those individuals who go into nursing to make a difference around the world. For these nurses, we have this brief guide on how to become a missionary nurse.

As a faith based nursing program, Marian University’s accelerated BSN nursing programs are grounded in the idea of incorporating your faith into your profession. While Marian is a Catholic institution, not all ABSN students are, nor have to be, Catholic. The ABSN program strives to provide an education that helps you, the student, make an impact on society.

What Type of Education Do Missionary Nurses Need?

There are a few different ways you can become a registered nurse. You can earn a nursing diploma, an associate’s degree, or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Out of these three, there are a few different reasons why a getting a BSN is your best option.

  1. The industry is changing, putting more responsibility on the nurse than ever before. As the aging population grows, more demand is placed on the nurses to care for these patients, and with demand comes expectations. A baccalaureate education incorporates more in the curriculum preparing registered nurses for their careers.
  2. Nurses with BSN degrees typically have more career options. There may come a time when you decide you want to move on from missionary nursing (maybe you no longer want to travel abroad or would like to try a different specialty). If this happens, having a bachelor’s degree will give you options. More and more jobs are requiring nurses to have a BSN, so having one will open more doors for you.Recent data also shows that nurses with BSN degrees are finding jobs over nurses with associate’s degrees. According to the American Association of College of Nursing, 81 percent of graduates with a BSN found a job, while only 72 percent of nurses with an associate’s degree have.
  3. If you already have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, you could earn your BSN in just 16 months through Marian University’s ABSN program. When compared to a two year associate’s degree program, it makes more sense for your career to graduate in less time with a bachelor’s degree.

After you graduate with a BSN and before applying for a missionary nursing position, you must first pass the NCLEX-RN examination. This licensure is a must to become a registered nurse (RN).

What Do Missionary Nurses Do?

The work of a missionary nurse is twofold:

  1. To provide medical attention for physical needs
  2. To provide spiritual attention for emotional needs

With constant discoveries in medicine and science in the US, it can be easy to overlook the huge need for advancement in developing countries. With the lack of necessary technology and education, lower-income countries have much different health concerns than we do. And this is where missionary nurses play a huge role.

Missionary nurses work with teams of medical professionals and volunteers in developing countries that have little access to health care. Religious organizations or nonprofits often employ these types of nurses. Missionary nurses are expected to perform the same tasks as all registered nurses.

Oftentimes, missionary nurses work with all age groups within a culture and offer professional advice in many areas of health and overall well-being. In addition to attending to medical and physical needs, such as administering vaccinations, missionary nurses also educate in regards to proper nutrition, personal hygiene, and disease awareness.

These nurses also possess knowledge in theology and/or spirituality and have many opportunities to share their faith. When missionary nurses are not overseas, they often raise both awareness for the health concerns circulating in lower-income countries and money for medical supplies, equipment, and facilities.

What Are the Rewards?

Financially speaking, and depending on the organization that employs them, the average salary for missionary nurses is between $50,000 and $70,000 per year. Housing and food are oftentimes provided, but not always.

Arrival of the AFM to Sierra LeoneAs a missionary nurse, you get to see places of the world that you likely otherwise wouldn’t. Missionary nurses typically travel to impoverished countries whose citizens do not have regular access to medical care. One organization, Mercy Ships, will dock off the coast of West Africa at various ports treating patients based on need. These places are not your typical tourist destinations, so if not for being a missionary nurse, you wouldn’t travel there.

You are exposed to cultures that are very different than your own. Missionary nurses are also encouraged to share their spiritual beliefs, and you provide medical attention and education to people who have no other means. These are memories that will last for a lifetime.

How to Become a Missionary Nurse

Nurses in this specialty are required to obtain an unrestricted travel visa and licensure in the country of practice. Depending on the employer, some nursing experience may be required, so you may need to work for a couple years after becoming a nurse before you can start.

If you are looking for ways to pad your application, pay attention to the following.

  1. Missionary nurses are encouraged to be familiar with other cultures and take courses in international healthcare.
  2. Proficiency in two or more languages is also strongly recommended.
  3. Missionary nurses should also have a strong background in theology and/or spirituality and should be open with their faith.

If you’re ambitious, adventurous, independent, and ready to make a difference, missionary nursing could be right for you. The work of missionary nurses reaches far beyond providing medical care. These nurses form friendships with their patients and interact with all aspects of the culture they are immersed in.

What’s Next?

Do you feel called to pursue a future in missionary nursing? At Marian University, we are happy to help you launch your nursing career with our Accelerated BSN program in Indianapolis or our accelerated nursing program in Nashville. Call us today at 866.892.6463 or contact an admissions advisor to get started!

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