Healthcare Project

Medical In Costa Rica (San Jose)

Gained real world medical experience in Costa Rica
volunteer taking care of a kid
  • Work alongside medical professionals
  • Immerse yourself in the beauty and culture of Costa Rica
  • Work in local clinics and hospitals
  • Volunteer abroad safely & affordably

Project Summary

While Costa Rica has made great strides at improving the healthcare of the country, in remote and poorer areas, most people have no access to healthcare and those who do receive substandard treatment. Many people suffer from preventable and treatable diseases there as well. If you are a medically-trained professional or a student, volunteer in the medical/healthcare project in Costa Rica. This is the ideal project to help you gain international and professional experience while giving you and those you help an enriching, productive and meaningful experience.

In the IFRE medical program, you will work in local clinics and hospitals to provide treatment to locals. In the past, our volunteers have had a positive effect on both the people and the local community.

Another positive side to Medical program in Costa Rica with IFRE-Costa Rica is that you can help this local community even if you’re in Puntarenas for only a small amount of time. IFRE-Costa Rica can place you in short-term medical projects.

Skills/Qualifications Needed

Volunteers interested in joining the volunteer medical program must possess a health care certification such as an ID as a medical student, EMT or paramedic certification, or nursing or physician's credentials. Medical volunteers without credentials are not allowed to work in this program because of the potential risk. The hospitals will require a copy of your resume, clearly stating credentials and education before your arrival to the project.

While beginner to intermediate knowledge of Spanish is preferred, it is not mandatory. If you cannot speak Spanish, we suggest you enroll in our Spanish language course to make your stay more rewarding – both for you and for the community you are helping.

Volunteer Responsibilities

In the Medical project, volunteers will assist local doctors and healthcare facilities with a wide variety of duties. You may work in different departments including physical therapy, laboratories, working with the mentally disabled, retirement homes, dental practices, ambulatory services, Red Cross, public daycares, shadowing nurses, and ministry health projects like dengue prevention and recycling projects. Depending on your Spanish skills and medical experience, you may assist with general patient examinations or participate in home visits to rural areas for vaccinations and/or to help immobile patients.

Medical volunteers will shadow local doctors and learn mostly from observation. Due to inherent risk involved and medical regulations, volunteers cannot treat patients or become involved in surgery during the project.

Accommodation/Food/Supervision

IFRE arranges room, breakfast and supervision for volunteers for the entire duration of the volunteer in Costa Rica program. In Puntarenas, you will have the option to stay with a well-screened host family or in an apartment-style room. Our host families are respected members of the community and are well-versed in the art of hosting international volunteers. Host families offer a safe home with private rooms (occasionally rooms will be shared with other same-gender volunteers), shared bathroom facilities, and a “western” style toilet. You may ask your host family to do laundry for you for a nominal extra fee. You will receive three prepared traditional Costa Rican meals per day. If you will be out of the house during lunch hour, you can request a lunch "to go" that you can take with you or eat out on your own. The city of Puntarenas is located on the Pacific coast, and it boasts miles of beautiful coastline popular with surfers. This area of Costa Rica is known for its nature reserves and islands, many of which are great day trip destinations. Puntarenas also has a wide variety of annual festivals and parks, along with restaurants that specialize in ceviche.

During the volunteer project, our local staff will stay in contact with you either with face-to-face visits or via email/telephone. The volunteer coordinator lives just minutes away if you need anything during your stay. Volunteers are always welcome at the local office, as well. We request that you stop by the office once a week to keep us posted on how you are doing with your home stay and project. If you any advice or have any issues you need to discuss, you can talk to your coordinator.

FAQ

Non Medical Project

  • Please provide a typical day schedule for this project

    Working hours vary according to the needs of the project, but you can expect to work 3-4 hours per day, Monday to Friday.

    Your working hours will either be in the morning or in the afternoon depending on your project, and your native Spanish classes will be scheduled during your off hours.

  • Where do I stay? How far is the project from the accommodation? How do I commute?

    You will be staying with a host family in a shared room. Rooms are typically shared with 1-3 other volunteers.

    The majority of our projects are located in and around San Jose. Travel time varies widely from project to project and you should expect to spend 20-90 minutes traveling each way. The city bus system is generally the most effective and cheapest way to get to and from your project, though taxis are widely available and are still an option. Please note that we will be unable to change your project placement based on its distance from our offices.

    Transportation is not always straight-forward in Costa Rica. Depending on your project and housing locations, you may need to take up to 3 buses between your host family and project site, so be prepared to incorporate the commute into your daily schedule.

    For your first visit to the project, you will be taken by a local representative using the local transport and given additional information about how to get to and from your project.

    Local bus rides are very affordable and a one way trip will rarely cost more than ₡350 (about $0.75). Taxis will be much more expensive and the cost will vary.

    IMPORTANT: Volunteers are responsible for their daily transportation to and from their project sites. Please budget up to $5.00 per day.

  • What kind of activities volunteers do in healthcare project?

    At the assisted living facilities, volunteers will assist with patient care by participating in any of the following:

    • General care and companionship: arts and crafts, changing beds, conversation, and talk therapy etc.
    • Distribute and/or sort medicine
    • Feed and bathe patients
    • Accompany patients on walks
    • Ensure patients’ overall well-being
    • Administrative work and filing

    Please take special note that conditions at these placements can be very emotionally trying. You should prepare yourself mentally and emotionally to work one-on-one with terminally ill patients.

    At the occupational training center, workshops are run to help autistic adults gain life skills and better participate in society. Volunteers will help design and facilitate classes in cooking, horticulture, knitting, art, music and more.

    At disabled children placements, volunteers act as classroom assistants to a current teacher within the school to help run the class and provide additional attention and care to the children. You will be assigned to one area of the school and one classroom, and stay with them throughout your program. Outside of the classroom, you may be asked to organize arts and crafts, play with the children, assist with physical therapy and helping the children during meal times.

  • Where are they placed; in clinic or hospital?

    Healthcare volunteers may be placed at an assisted living facility for elderly adults or HIV patients, or an occupational training center for autistic adults or disabled children.

  • What are the requirements to join the program?

    There are no requirements to join a healthcare (non-medical) project.

  • What kind of support do we get during the project time?

    Our healthcare and medical projects are overseen by our on-staff medical specialist. Our medical specialist makes regular site visits to check in on volunteers. Volunteers are also supported by the staff at the project.

  • How many hours a day do we need to work?

    Working hours vary according to the needs of the project, but you can expect to work 3-4 hours per day, Monday to Friday. Your working hours will either be in the morning or in the afternoon depending on your project, and your native Spanish classes will be scheduled during your off hours.

  • Is healthcare available all-round the year? If not, when does it close for how long?

    Yes, healthcare (non-medical) projects are available all year with project start dates every Monday. Any important information you want to share about this project.

    Personal Appearance

    Some of the projects we work with are quite conservative. Be prepared to cover your shoulders and knees if necessary, and to wear clothing that is not revealing or extravagant. If you have facial piercings you may be asked to remove them, and tattoos may need to be covered.

    IMPORTANT: Scrubs may be required at some healthcare projects, as well as disposable rubber gloves for your personal use. A clean and neat appearance is requested at all times.

Medical Project

  • Please provide a typical day schedule for this project

    Working hours vary according to the needs of the project, but you can expect to work 3-4 hours per day, Monday to Friday.

    Your working hours will either be in the morning or in the afternoon depending on your project, and your native Spanish classes will be scheduled during your off hours.

  • Where do I stay? How far is the project from the accommodation? How do I commute?

    You will be staying with a host family in a shared room. Rooms are typically shared with 1-3 other volunteers.

    The majority of our projects are located in and around San Jose. Travel time varies widely from project to project and you should expect to spend 20-90 minutes traveling each way. The city bus system is generally the most effective and cheapest way to get to and from your project, though taxis are widely available and are still an option. Please note that we will be unable to change your project placement based on its distance from our offices.

    Transportation is not always straight-forward in Costa Rica. Depending on your project and housing locations, you may need to take up to 3 buses between your host family and project site, so be prepared to incorporate the commute into your daily schedule. For your first visit to the project, you will be taken by a local representative using the local transport and given additional information about how to get to and from your project.

    Local bus rides are very affordable and a one way trip will rarely cost more than ₡350 (about $0.75). Taxis will be much more expensive and the cost will vary.

    IMPORTANT: Volunteers are responsible for their daily transportation to and from their project sites. Please budget up to $5.00 per day.

  • What kind of activities volunteers do in healthcare project?

    Depending on the needs of your project and your level of skill and training, including language ability, you may:

    • Work alongside a nurse, doctor, therapist or other medical professional
    • Work in a specialized living facility with disabled, elderly or HIV patients
    • Distribute or sort medicine
    • Assist with care and companionship of patients (activities, feeding and bathing, talk therapy, changing beds)
    • Assist with administrative work and filing

    Please note that hospital placements are limited and typically only allow for shadowing of medical professionals. It is important to understand there are inherent limitations to working abroad in the medical field. It is crucial that medical volunteers have realistic expectations about the activities you will be involved in. Because insurance regulations and laws vary, volunteers should understand they will not always be providing direct patient care, nor always working with a doctor.

    Medical volunteers should understand that independence in medical projects will always be determined by:

    • Level of training and demonstrated expertise
    • Spanish level
    • Personality and ability to take initiative
    • Duration of program

    Please note that if you have zero to low-intermediate Spanish language skills, you will likely be placed in an HIV facility or home for the elderly.

  • Where are they placed; in clinic or hospital?

    Based on availability and experience you will be placed at either an assisted living facility for elderly, disabled or HIV patients, at a hospital, or with a private ambulance service.

  • What are the requirements to join the program?

    Volunteers must be in a pre-med program as a minimum. Prior to your arrival you may be required to provide copies of your training and credentials, as well as provide your level of Spanish language skill.

  • What kind of support do we get during the project time?

    Our healthcare and medical projects are overseen by our on-staff medical specialist. Our medical specialist makes regular site visits to check in on volunteers. Volunteers are also supported by the staff at the project.

  • How many hours a day do we need to work?

    Working hours vary according to the needs of the project, but you can expect to work 3-4 hours per day, Monday to Friday.

    Your working hours will either be in the morning or in the afternoon depending on your project, and your native Spanish classes will be scheduled during your off hours.

  • Is medical available all-round the year? If not, when does it close for how long?

    Yes, medical projects are available all year with project start dates every Monday.

    Any important information you want to share about this project.

    Personal Appearance

    Some of the projects we work with are quite conservative. Be prepared to cover your shoulders and knees if necessary, and to wear clothing that is not revealing or extravagant. If you have facial piercings you may be asked to remove them, and tattoos may need to be covered.

    IMPORTANT: Scrubs and disposable rubber gloves are required at all medical projects. You are required to bring your own basic medical supplies, including a white coat, scrubs, and disposable rubber gloves. A clean and neat appearance is requested at all times.

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