Before getting to the field
For all staff recruited to work overseas with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), we provide comprehensive preparation training. Although this varies from country to country, for field workers from Australia and New Zealand it is known as ‘Welcome Days’. The psychosocial component addresses topics including stress management, self-care, ways of coping, short- and long-term responses to trauma, managing unexpected events and burnout.
“We talk to new recruits about the challenges of international aid work by acknowledging that this work is stressful and that it is completely normal for people to have hiccups along the way. We prepare our field workers for a marathon,” says Dr Kaz de Jong, a clinical and health psychologist, head of the Staff Health Unit for MSF based in Amsterdam.
“We also train our managers on how to stay healthy, how to keep their teams healthy, what support mechanisms are in place, how to address burnout, what to do when teams are exposed to critical incidents, and generally on identifying the biggest stressors in MSF,” adds Dr de Jong. “We offer practical exercises around scenarios, including how to talk to someone who is working too much or how to deal with conflict.”