Qualified and experienced medical professionals traveling to developing countries and providing necessary healthcare may seem not only harmless but sensible for communities in need. However, if the ultimate goal is to improve sustainable healthcare in these countries in the long-term, the benefits of professional volunteers can be short-lived.
Nurses International is a non-profit organization that aims to build sustainable healthcare in developing nations by providing resources and education to local nurses in order to become qualified healthcare workers. Some of its work includes:
- Ameliorating programs that are already in existence by providing necessary courses to complete the nurses’ training
- Setting up new programs where they are non-existent
- Removing obstacles, such as affordability, for students
- Applying a curriculum that utilizes technology to increase productivity and efficiency
- Educating nurses on their influence on community development
- Multiple consultation efforts, such as reviewing curriculum, mentoring staff and aiding in policy development
Nurses International also provides online courses intended to magnify the instruction for students in nursing programs. The courses may also act as preparation for those entering a nursing program. The online programs have been made available worldwide and include lectures, references for educators and students, assignments and assessments.
With all current courses relocated online due to COVID-19, there is a new course available for students to enroll in that discusses all aspects of the COVID-19 including testing, treatment and trajectory of the disease. Nurses International is also currently developing a teacher’s guide for Open Access and has the “worlds first Open Access BSN.”
Nurses International endeavors to do its work honing an anthropological perspective. Understanding and respecting the beliefs, values, traditions, and language of the patients and the community is at the heart of the organization’s work. Nurses International “respects and values multiple perspectives and finds that diversity allows them to their best work” towards building sustainable healthcare.
Nurses International’s productive efforts can be seen in Burundi, where volunteers teach students and develop learning materials while a new hospital is being built. Nurses International is making a teacher handbook and providing health checkups for women partaking in the program. In China, they are educating clinical instructors in the city of Quijing from 3 different nursing schools. In Egypt, Nurses International is providing a residency program for nurses to help them transition into clinical practice.
Challenges of Medical Tourism
Nurses International has an understanding that the demands of a developing country go far beyond the need for provisional healthcare. There is a growing interest from clinicians and medical students to travel to and temporarily practice in developing nations. The consequences of these visits can be damaging in multiple ways. For instance, countries hosting these international visitors must adapt resources that are already insufficient for their stay. Visitors often bring along supplies that are unnecessary or inapplicable. There is no evidence these missions create a stable healthcare model. By the end of their visits, substantial amounts of materials and money have been dedicated to solutions that are only temporary.
The Best of Both Worlds
Of course, volunteers can be helpful in developing countries. There is still a high demand for medical professionals and urgent care. The best solutions can come from an approach that is conscious of the community’s needs in both the short-term and the long-term. The Project Health Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE) and the Ghana Emergency Medicine Collaborative (GEMC) united in 2011 to accomplish this objective.
GEMC recognized the crucial need for specialization in emergency medicine since almost 6 million deaths around the world occur from injuries and acute illnesses. The collaborative realized that sending students away to developed countries for their training was ineffective in sustaining healthcare in the community because many students would remain in the developed countries that they were trained in, instead of returning home. To prevent such issues, GEMC brought emergency medicine specialists from the U.S and U.K. to Komfo Arioke Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi, Ghana.
The faculty coming from developed countries advise and train students who eventually graduate from the program and become qualified clinicians and instructors, allowing graduates from the local community to then lead the programs. Project Hope joined forces with GEMC’s methods by providing volunteers to perform direct and immediate health care services as needed at KATH, and also to strengthen a program with transitory medical volunteers. These programs work together to form an initiative to build sustainable healthcare in the community.
— Amy Schlagel