Nurses look to some of the occupation’s most revered pioneers such as Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton for their inspiration to work in adverse conditions. Nightingale and Barton both provided service to soldiers in wartime and dealt with the difficult atmosphere nursing in battle conditions required. Nurses in international development today may work under very similar conditions, providing care to those in war-torn areas and educating people on proper sanitation, disease prevention, and other critical medical issues to reduce mortality rates.
Nurses can work with international development organizations in refugee camps, or areas without access to quality medical care. Their primary role as nurses means they provide front-line care to people from a variety of walks of life. They may not require master’s degree education to work in international development contexts, but the work is some of the most challenging available to nurses or any medical professionals.
The main objective of travel nursing is to help fill nursing shortages in certain hospitals or health-care facilities. Although many traditional travel nursing positions are temporary (nurses work on contract until the nursing shortage is addressed), working as a traveling nurse in international development could be a career choice for many nurses. Effective development efforts usually take longer to establish a sustainable result, so traveling nurses can expect to work for longer contract periods than traditional traveling nurses.
International development assignments for nurses can vary in duration depending on circumstances. Nurses who work with organizations that provide mostly emergency medical care may find themselves working in locations stricken by natural disaster. After helping the area regain its footing and re-establish its medical community’s capacity to provide quality care, they may move on to another area. On the other hand, nurses may work in local clinics or hospitals for years on end if they choose.
The requirements of nursing also include educating local community health workers on the importance of sanitation, disease prevention, nutrition, treating common conditions, and how to identify and assist malnourished children. Nurses in international development may also be charged with supervising local employees as they gain the skills necessary to successfully continue nursing work on their own. They may need to write manuals on topics in such a way that they are easily understandable to local medical staff as well.
Reports, writing papers, and giving community classes on various health-related topics are also important parts of their duties. For example, nurses may help conduct research on the particular health education needs of particular communities and partner with government and international development organizations to design and implement a program to address those needs.
Some nurses in international development work their way up the ranks to supervising other international development organization staff or to focus mainly on training and administrative work. They may no longer work directly with patients as much as they did in the beginning. Significant experience and training as a nurse are required to work with an international development organization, and it takes even more experience and training to become a nurse administrator in that context.
A great opportunity for nurses is through working with Medicines Sans Frontiers, an organization which seeks to bring formidable health specialists to different parts of the world to contribute their expertise. In addition to its need for doctors, MSF concurrently recruits seasoned nurses to provide health care and public health needs to developing areas. Requirements for becoming a nurse in MSF are demanding; qualified individuals must have at least two years of work experience and are willing to cope with the dynamic, fast-paced work environment that they are thrown in.
Nurses who work overseas provide critical care to people without access to quality, affordable health care. They are always in demand in locations around the world. Their work is vital to the success of any medical health program in any developing country.