Any medical work overseas involves change and adaptation. Christian mission and secular organisations screen their applicants carefully. However, because of the need to sustain a service and the many vacant posts, they may too easily reach the conclusion that you are the answer to their prayers. You should analyse the post offered very carefully before deciding you are the person for the job.
Always ask yourself, 'Should I be helping to meet this particular need or is there some other need which better fits who I am and what I have to offer'
It is always worth writing down the questions you want to ask before you go for the interview or you may well forget them. Obviously, the questions you may wish to ask are likely to vary according to whether the employing agency is secular or Christian. You also need to remember that you are looking for an opportunity to serve sacrificially, not planning a career move or seeking to find fault. The following is intended to give you some ideas to work on:
About the employing agency:
- What is the organisation's ethos and mission statement?
- If it is a Christian agency, what is its doctrinal basis and do they have particular views on lifestyles, worship etc that I will have to adhere to?
- Is there a clear written statement of their aims and objectives?
- Are they supportive of their workers and are there clear lines of accountability?
- How much language training, if any, will I receive?
- What orientation is given in the UK pre-departure and on arrival in the country of destination?
- Does the organisation provide any political or security briefings?
- Is any provision made for CPD and to cover revalidation issues?
- Is there a regional co-ordinator for the mission/organisation in the country?
- Who, if anyone, has done the job before me and how long did they stay?
- Am I expected to have raised my full support before the mission will accept me?
- Who pays airfares, accommodation and expenses, eg medical indemnity?
and see whether the organisation follows the People in Aid Code of Practice
About the job itself:
- Am I depriving a local person of an opportunity?
- Is there a written job description?
- What management responsibilities will I have?
- What are the project's objectives and to whom will I be responsible medically?
- What facilities (library, lab, equipment, drugs) does the institution have?
- Are there in-country links for advice and referrals?
- Is there easy Internet access?
Do not necessarily expect a detailed job description in a church hospital. This can rarely be given as there are often so many other things that need to be done – including non-medical matters that might demand your time and attention. On the other hand, it is important to check that expectations are realistic and that you express any reservations you may have in advance.
Personal and family matters:
- What pastoral support is there locally and internationally?
- What health checks (including vaccinations and drugs) are provided pre and post time abroad?
- What happens if I become ill? Is there a medical insurance scheme that covers me and the family (including repatriation)?
- Who do I turn to for help in the event of a crisis (institutional, project-wise or national emergency)?
- What accommodation is provided?
- What will my spouse and children do all day?
- Are there schools nearby? How near are they? Will my children have to attend a boarding school?
- Will I have access to or need private transport? Should I consider taking a car?
- What debriefing is available at the end of my time abroad?
- What about pension matters?
Some may feel that they are 'lacking faith' by asking such questions but the answers will provide important information enabling you to count the cost and come to a decision. You need to have a good idea of what to expect so that you can be mentally and spiritually prepared – as far as that is possible – to adjust and cope with the transition.