In recent years several government reports have recognised the benefits of UK doctors working in developing countries. The countries to which they go benefit from the contribution they make while there but the doctors themselves and even the NHS benefit from the experience they bring back with them. The Department of Health published a document in 2003, entitled International Humanitarian and Health Work – A toolkit to support good practice
. It can be found at:
It lists the benefits to NHS employees who take part in short term work overseas:
The Health Professionals become practised in prioritising scarce resources, managing change, developing human resources, thinking on their feet, making things happen and working in multidisciplinary teams. They will become aware of global health and disease needs, adaptable and resourceful, self assured, strategic in their thinking and will develop leadership and problem solving skills. They will inevitably reassess how they use resources in healthcare when they return to the UK. The result of these effects on their staff is making many senior managers realise how valuable working overseas can be.
The NHS benefits because its staff bring their enlarged skills and enlivened motivation back to their jobs. The experiences accrued from a career break or a regular overseas partnership will revitalise and refresh staff, enabling them to withstand the onslaught of mid-career burn out.
Working abroad will:
- Make you see UK health problems from a totally different perspective. You will gain first hand experience of non-western world views of health and disease. Resource poor countries have had long experience in deciding health care priorities in the face of stringent budgetary constraints and we have much to learn. It may well be that you will use resources more responsibly when you return!
- Give you practical medical, surgical and management skills that you won't gain at home. These may include: facing the challenge of being a 'generalist' and working outside the confines of the rigid specialisations of the western world and taking on strategic responsibilities such as handling hospital budgets, designing new buildings and the hiring and disciplining of staff.
- Open your eyes to life in another culture. Even if you end up practising in the UK, you will have gained valuable insights into the lifestyles and way of thinking of patients of differing nationalities and cultures.