Shadowing a DoctorJuly 4, 2012
When you have qualified as a doctor or in any of the other professions supplementary to medicine, taking some time out to volunteer overseas is a really great way to consolidate your training, have a break from routine and do some good along the way. If you don’t have the lifestyle to volunteer overseas, you can still help out at home as the red Cross in particular has a great infrastructure that needs input from volunteers on every level, so you can certainly find a niche there. The Red Cross do some fabulous work worldwide and sometimes their roles in other countries would surprise you. In Spain, for example, the Red Cross do a lot of the work that in the UK would be carried out by the NHS, particularly in the care of the elderly and vulnerable and in places with a high ex-pat population, the need for English speakers is great, as many old people are trapped financially in a place far from home and are alone after the death of a partner. Local fundraisers do what they can, but volunteers are the ones who can make a difference.
Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders are a charity which operates in some of the worst places in the world. They are a highly respected charity with correspondingly high expectations of their volunteers, so be ready to undergo rigorous weeding out interviews before being taken on. Volunteering for MSF is a real commitment, with even your first placement being up to a year long and not usually less than nine months. The work won’t be glamorous and you will be using your skills in some very varied situations, but many people volunteer regularly as it is such a worthwhile experience. You will be working with some of the best in your field and a placement with MSF will always be a good addition to your CV as well as something you will never forget.
VSO or Voluntary Service Overseas is not just a medical charity, but covers most of the globe. You will find yourself working in a team of people from all walks of life as a large part of the VSO plan is to help to make communities self-sufficient. Much of their work is therefore in helping local people develop strategies to improve their living conditions by building businesses, getting reliable clean water, building schools, clinics and hospitals. This is a great way to really get inside a community and make a difference and there is something very satisfying about growing better health for a community quite literally from the ground up. Another advantage for the newly qualified health professional of VSO is that their placements are often shorter than MSF so they fit more easily into a career structure.