CMNH research captures the experiences of medical volunteers in Ethiopia

News article 31 Aug 2018

Many skilled medical professionals from high-income countries volunteer to work in low-resource settings around the world. However, there is currently little research to assess the views and experiences of these healthcare providers. Researchers from the Centre for Maternal and Newborn Health with the support of Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) Ethiopia have conducted a study to explore the views and experiences of VSO volunteers who had worked in Ethiopia for one year.

The study, A survey of international medical volunteers’ experiences of working with Voluntary Service Overseas in Ethiopia, has now been published in the journal Tropical Doctor.

Data was collected through an online survey, which was sent to all medical volunteers in September 2014  ̶  one year after their return to their base country. 94% of the volunteers, who were nurses, midwives and doctors from the UK, Ireland and Canada, shared their experiences through the survey. 

The results showed that despite challenges faced, many of the medical volunteers felt that they had impacted the local community in which they worked and reported a positive experience. 75% said they would recommend the experience to friends or family. However, there was a small subgroup who would not.

Further research is now needed to better understand the experiences of international medical volunteers, their local partners and the support staff of developmental organisations to improve the effectiveness of medical clinical placements in low-resource settings.

Dr Mary McCauley, Senior Clinical Research Associate at CMNH and author of the research said:
"I previously worked as a medical volunteer with Voluntary Services Overseas in Ethiopia for one year and am very grateful for this opportunity. However, I often wonder how best the sharing of medical expertise between different health systems can be facilitated better and how the sharing of medical skills can be more supportive and sustainable over time between countries. This study highlights the need for more comprehensive, systematic and robust monitoring to evaluate the outcomes of medical volunteers’ placements.”

Image Credit: © UNICEF Ethiopia 2015, Tesfaye, Courtesy of Flickr.