Many things can cause someone to help other people and many things can keep them from doing so.  Dr. Donna Perry discussed this issue in her presentation “Experiences of Humanitarian Global Health Care Providers”.  Her reports were very interesting because they can lead to many changes in the way health care organizations and colleagues interact with the people who are willing to go abroad, sometimes risking their lives to help people who need it most.

Dr. Perry explained that motivating factors for one to go on such trips were a calling from God or a need to have purpose in the world.  A lack of support, however, can make these willing people less comfortable and extremely stressed out in a new setting.  Some of the doctors and nurses reported that when they were sent to a new area, they were not put into contact with anyone, and had no idea where to begin their work.  That was not always the case as others reported they were well-trained for the new environment.

These new global experiences had fascinating emotional effects on people; from guilt to appreciation.  One health care provider felt extremely guilty on her way to the store to purchase a new pair of pants when she had many other pairs at home.  The people she had to take care of during her assignment did not have the liberty to go out and purchase unnecessary items.  Another humanitarian health care provider reported meeting an extremely intelligent man who could not go to school because he did not have the money. Life’s problems become more real and the privilege of education, good health, and safety are more appreciated.

Reactions to humanitarian trips made by colleagues varied and were not always well-received.  It seemed as if they thought the person went on a vacation rather than on an assignment.  They simply wanted to know how the assignment went  but did not take the time to really listen to details.  Coworkers unawareness of the risks people on humanitarian assignments are exposed to can contribute to this behavior.  One person had a gun held to his head and others could not shower for days.  If jogging was one’s stress relief technique,  that method would be dangerous in an unsafe area.

The way humanitarians coped with their experiences depended on the individual.  Some talked about it in groups while others dealt with it privately.  Nevertheless, all of them needed support from the people around them.  Dr. Perry’s research sheds light on the fact that more support is needed.  Support can be given to participants of humanitarian trips in different ways such as: showing appreciation, listening, and providing training on ways to cope with the cultural adjustment.  Health care organizations can provide more training so that humanitarians are better prepared to face the challenges they may encounter.  Most people know that the job will not be easy, but the more help to ease the assignment, the better.

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