Shadowing a Doctor

October 28, 2013

Doctors Without Borders or Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international humanitarian organisation that is committed to sending medical professionals to various locations around the world for voluntary medical work. This organisation was incorporated in France in 1971 by a group of dedicated doctors and journalists to provide medical care to people in crisis in almost sixty countries around the world. These are people whose survival is threatened either due to natural catastrophes, epidemics or armed conflict. Because of the complex nature of their volunteer work, the organisation is always in need of a strong medical, logistical and administrative support staff in the field as well as in the office. 

Medical staff that are always in demand in the field at various locations include: 

  • Registered Nurses/Nurse Practitioners
  • Anesthesiologists/Nurse Anesthetists 
  • Surgeons
  • Nurse-Midwives/Certified Midwives 
  • Epidemiologists
  • Obstetricians/Gynecologists
  • Physicians
  • Laboratory Scientists/Technicians
  • Specialists in Infectious Diseases, HIV/AIDS, TB
  • Licensed Mental Health Specialists
  • Operating Room Nurses 
  • Pharmacists


General Requirements 

Doctors Without Borders has a few requirements from all of the staff that they hire to work in the field. If you have plans on joining this organisation, here are the basic requirements you will need to meet. 

  • Minimum two years of relevant professional experience. As a physician, you will meet this requirement upon completion of your residency. 
  • You will be available to work with them for at least nine to twelve months. This is because the work you are expected to do is complex and intense and their senior staff will have spent a significant amount of time training you and familiarising you with their work ethics and methodologies. Losing you immediately after that would put to waste all the time and effort they would have spent. Only a few specialities such as ob-gyns, surgeons, nurse anaesthetists and anaesthesiologists are taken on shorter terms of one to three months. This is because of the extreme nature of the workload during their time in the field. 
  • Relevant work experience outside the UK – preferably in a developing country. Since most of the work that the organisation does is in developing countries, they prefer to take on personnel who have volunteered, worked or lived abroad in such countries and who are familiar with these conditions. For somebody who has never had such exposure, the odds are higher that they would not be able to cope with the reality of the situation or what is expected of them.  
  • In addition to professional qualifications and experience, it is equally important that all staff that work for Doctors Without Borders are flexible, adaptable and are willing and able to work with a diverse group of medical and non-medical professionals from all corners of the world. This is a very important aspect and is something that the recruiters lay a lot of emphasis on.   

Doctors Without Borders stresses the fact that they are an independent organisation and they are committed to providing impartial care without any religious, political or military agenda and they expect all of their staff to be just as committed to their principles.