The Concept of Nurses Without Borders
The idea of ‘nurses without borders’ is gaining in popularity, due to growing awareness of the problems faced by many developing countries, and other parts of the world with accessing quality healthcare. As a result, there has been a rise in recent years of the number of humanitarian medical global organizations and programs seeking to address these critical needs.
The primary goal of these organizations is to promote and implement programs offering care to the world’s at-risk populations, whether they are refugees fleeing conflict, victims of famine or epidemics, or those living in chronically underserved locations. As might be expected, nurses play a critical role in these organizations serving people in need.
Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders)
Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) was begun in 1971 by a group of journalists and doctors in France; its world headquarters are now in Geneva, Switzerland. According to their website, as an international humanitarian medical organization, they provide impartial and independent medical care to people in over 60 countries, who are the victims of wars, natural disasters, malnutrition, economic disparities, and epidemics. The underlying philosophy is that all people deserve to have access to quality health care, regardless of geographic, economic, political or religious status.
In addition to physicians, MSF welcomes all qualified health practitioners, including ‘nurses without borders’ serving as Nurses Practitioners, Nurse Midwives, Operating Room Nurses, and Nurse Anesthetists. They also need non-medical staff for a variety of administrative and support positions. The MSF pays its workers a monthly salary as well as airfare, medical insurance and field accommodations.
Experience and Education Needed to Help with MSF
The primary requirements for field work with MSF are a minimum of six months of availability, 2 years of professional experience in the chosen field, current licensing or other professional credentials, as well as work or travel experience outside the U.S. relevant to the field. Additional helpful experiences include being flexible and adaptable to basic living conditions, foreign language skills and participation in community service activities.
Volunteer Nursing Opportunities with Other Global Organizations
There are a number of other international organizations needing health care volunteers. Some may help with travel, living expenses or stipends but smaller organizations usually require that a volunteer pay their own way.
The Peace Corps
Founded in 1961, the Peace Corps is one of the oldest and most respected organizations helping promote peace and world friendship through improving the lives and local communities of people around the world. It currently has over 8,000 volunteers working in 76 host countries in areas as diverse as agriculture, economic, environmental and educational development, and health care.
The newly-launched Global Service Health Partnership seeks to place physicians, nurses and other health professionals in nursing or medical schools in parts of Africa beginning July 2013. There is also a critical need in the field for health care workers – especially nurses – in every country served by the Peace Corp both to help with the local populations as well as with its volunteers’ health needs.
The Peace Corps requires that all volunteers, regardless of the field, must be citizens of the U.S. and at least 18 years old, and be able to commit to 27 months of service.
The Global Nurse Initiative
The Global Nurse Initiative was founded in June of 2009 as a means to ‘give back’ by serving global health communities. They consist of nurses, nurse practitioners, medical doctors, physician assistants, as well as axillary health professionals. They assist established clinics and service projects with providing public education on health issues and conduct health screenings in area schools.
The GNI especially welcomes applications from nurses with ICU, ER, Pediatric, and OB-Gynecological experience, but needs professionals from all health care professions.
International Medical Volunteers
This organization was formed in 1996 as a way to support and facilitate volunteer medical assistance to developing countries through exchanging information and education. While the IMV does not place or sponsor volunteers, for those interested in becoming ‘nurses without borders’ they act as a clearinghouse of information and online links to opportunities in global healthcare.