How To Take a Physician Sabbatical Abroad

This week, we’re answering a burning question from our physician community as part of Q&A Wednesdays. 

Q: Dr. Christina asks, “How can physicians snag time off from their current jobs to do short-term jobs abroad?” 🌎

A: Hold onto your stethoscopes, because here are five stellar strategies to transform your dream of a stint abroad into a reality. 

1. Between Jobs Adventure

Kick off your global escapades during those golden moments between jobs. Whether they switched jobs because they found a better fit or were relocating for family reasons, many physicians created a buffer zone between jobs, filling in this gap with a short-term stint abroad like an international locums gig or a medical mission. 

2. Coordinate Coverage

You can work with your current employer or practice to coordinate coverage for your clinical and administrative work when you’re away.

For example, Dr. Sarah Gebauer, an anesthesiologist, started orchestrating her sabbatical several years before going on it. She worked closely with her practice and colleagues to create a plan that covered her clinical and administrative responsibilities in a way that worked for her and her employer. 

You can learn the nitty gritty of HOW she coordinated with her practice here and learn about what her 5-month sabbatical was actually like here. 

🌟Psst… she spills even more wisdom on her blog, Physician Sabbatical

3. Leave of Absence 

Some physicians have taken an extended leave of absence to be able to travel and work abroad. Originally, Dr. Gayle Galetta, an emergency medicine physician, pitched working 0.25 FTEs, but her boss fearing that everyone would want to do the same thing, refused this proposal. 

So she took a one-year leave of absence, which then became two years, and lived and worked in Norway! You can read her riveting story here and learn about the unexpected twist!

4. Locums Work – Domestic & International

Seize control over your schedule via locums work. Drs. Llobet – a physician couple (IM and Pulm/CC/Hospice/Palliative Care) – bid farewell to their traditional practices in New York to work locums – in the US and overseas. This transition helped them live and practice in places like Guam, St. Maarten’s, India, and most recently New Zealand.

5. Scholarship

Some physicians work for an employer or academic institution that has a built-in sabbatical program. During their sabbatical abroad, they’ll work on a research project, write a book, or develop a new curriculum. 

Bottom Line 

There are MANY ways to create and carve out your own sabbatical abroad. 

What about you? Have you taken a sabbatical abroad? If so, how did you make it happen, where did you go, and what did you learn from that experience? Let me know in the comments below. 

👉 Hungry for more insider tips on practicing medicine abroad?

Join our weekly email newsletter! Sign up now and snag your FREE e-guide, “How to Start YOUR Adventure” and start turning your dreams into reality. 🚀


Ashwini Bapat, MD
, is a palliative care doctor, a co-founder of Hippocratic Adventures and EpioneMD Coaching. She lives in Portugal with her husband and 2 kids. When she’s not blogging, you’ll find her swimming in an Olympic-sized swimming pool, frosting a cake, or watching the Korean reality show “Single’s Inferno” with her husband.

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