uu.seUppsala University Publications
Change search
CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf
Images, Motives, and Challenges for Western Health Workers in Humanitarian Aid
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Women's and Children's Health. (International Maternal and Reproductive Health)
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis presents how humanitarian aid workers were attracted, motivated, recruited, and prepared for fieldwork, and how they reported their work experience directly from the field and when they returned home. Data were derived from interviews with experienced aid workers, focus group discussions with presumptive aid workers, analysis of letters from aid workers in the field on MSFs homepages in Europe, and from interviews with recruitment officers at some of the main humanitarian organisations.

Health professionals were attracted by the positive images of humanitarian action. They wished to work in teams with like-minded people, and to make a difference in the world. However, this image was not supported by the recruitment officers, or experienced aid workers, who described a complex reality in humanitarian action. The experienced aid workers instead had realised they learned more than they contributed.

The recruitment system for relief workers would benefit from a more holistic approach, where personalities of the aid workers are more in focus. More time must be spent with the applicants, both recruited and returning aid workers, in order to improve the system. A socialisation approach could help identify the right personnel and to motivate current personnel to continue.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 2009. , p. 65
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Medicine, ISSN 1651-6206 ; 453
Keywords [en]
humanitarian action, human resource management, relief workers, aid workers, volunteers, images, motives, qualitative research
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Research subject
Medicine
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-100891ISBN: 978-91-554-7509-3 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-100891DiVA, id: diva2:211229
Public defence
2009-05-27, Universitetshuset, Sal IV, S:t Olofsgatan, Uppsala, 09:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2009-05-06 Created: 2009-04-09 Last updated: 2010-05-27Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Images of humanitarian disaster work: A study of letters from the field
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Images of humanitarian disaster work: A study of letters from the field
(English)Manuscript (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

An increasing number of people in western countries want to make an active contribution to the world through humanitarian work. Nevertheless the organisations have to compete to attract the best individuals. WWW has become an important channel for presenting the organisations’ image and attracting potential field workers. This study explored how humanitarian fieldwork, in six European MSF homepages, was presented through letters from the field, in order to attract presumptive humanitarian aid workers. The material was analysed using discourse analysis and content analysis.

The letters provided a glimpse of how it is to work in the field and the reader gets the idea that it is possible to make a contribution and a difference; it is possible to do much with little means, even if one is not professionally very experienced. It is always enough to try your best. The letters do not show the complexity of disaster work and there are few images of local personnel and their contributions to the field work.

If the organisations want to provide a more nuanced image of the work, they should encourage the authors of the letters to describe the work of local staff in order to avoid portraying them as victims. This would strengthen the message that MSF’ expatriates are professionals assisting the locals with their knowledge and resources. Both groups deserve full acknowledgement for the important work they do.

Keywords
Humanitarian action, images, letters, MSF, discourse analysis
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Research subject
Medicine
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-100878 (URN)
Available from: 2009-04-09 Created: 2009-04-09 Last updated: 2015-03-02
2. Perceptions of Work in Humanitarian Assistance: Interviews With Returning Swedish Health Professionals
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Perceptions of Work in Humanitarian Assistance: Interviews With Returning Swedish Health Professionals
2004 (English)In: Disaster Management & Response, ISSN 1540-2487, E-ISSN 1540-2495, Vol. 2, no 4, p. 101-108Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

 

Health personnel volunteering for humanitarian assistance assignments work in increasingly dangerous situations and increasingly complex roles. A qualitative analysis of interviews with returning Swedish aid workers, who collectively had been on 74 missions in 32 different countries, revealed that they felt positive about their contribution, but experienced high levels of stress and frustration. They were also surprised and inadequately prepared for tasks that fell outside their professional health care training, including ones demanding pedagogic and management skills.

The volunteers perceived their success on humanitarian assistance assignments as being affected not only by their own professional competence and special preparatory training, but also by many other factors. In particular, recruiting organizations could improve volunteer performance by accepting only experienced professionals, requiring special preparatory training, clarifying the exact nature of the work, and providing better support during the assignment. Further analysis of humanitarian assistance as a complex and dynamic system involving multiple ‘actors’ could lead to improved understanding and better performance.

 

Keywords
Humanitarian action, aid workers, perception, qualitiative research
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-100876 (URN)10.1016/j.dmr.2004.08.009 (DOI)15448624 (PubMedID)
Available from: 2009-04-14 Created: 2009-04-09 Last updated: 2017-12-13Bibliographically approved
3. Motivations, Concerns, and Expectations of Scandinavian Health Professionals Volunteering for Humanitarian Assignments
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Motivations, Concerns, and Expectations of Scandinavian Health Professionals Volunteering for Humanitarian Assignments
2006 (English)In: Disaster Management & Response, ISSN 1540-2487, E-ISSN 1540-2495, Vol. 4, no 2, p. 49-58Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

International nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) involved in humanitarian assistance employ millions of volunteers. One of the major challenges for the organizations is the high turnover rate among their personnel. Another is recruiting the right persons. As part of a series of studies investigating factors that affect the recruitment process and the success of assignment, this qualitative study examined health professionals' motivations for volunteering, their various concerns, and their expectations about themselves and the organizations for which they would work. The findings from focus group interviews with potential humanitarian volunteers were considered within the framework of Hertzberg's theory of motivations and Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

The study has significant implications for personnel policy and practice in the humanitarian sector. Recruitment officers should have the self-actualized person, as described by Maslow, in mind when interviewing candidates. This perspective would make it easier for them to understand the candidates' thoughts and concerns and would lead to more effective interventions. Program officers should have satisfiers and dissatisfiers, as identified by Herzberg, in mind when planning programs. The probability that personnel will leave humanitarian work is lower if they perceive working conditions as good.

 

National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-100877 (URN)10.1016/j.dmr.2006.01.002 (DOI)16580984 (PubMedID)
Available from: 2009-04-14 Created: 2009-04-09 Last updated: 2017-12-13Bibliographically approved
4. Socialisation of humanitarian aid workers: Interviews with recruitment officers
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Socialisation of humanitarian aid workers: Interviews with recruitment officers
(English)Manuscript (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

International organisations employ thousands of aid workers for humanitarian aid around the world. One of the problems identified in earlier research is the high turnover of personnel.

This article is part of a broader research project investigating how humanitarian organisations attract, recruit and prepare expatriate health professionals for field work and how these professionals are utilized in order to identify possible improvements in the human resource management system. The current study describes how recruitment officers in selected large humanitarian organisations perceive humanitarian aid work, how they recruit, prepare, and support their staff in order to achieve high retention, and what concerns and recommendations they have for future work. For the analysis of the interviews content analysis was used.

The recruitment officers identified the importance of flexibility and diplomacy in complex realities. They confirmed the findings of earlier studies that team work often is a source of frustrations and sometimes disappointment. Their main concern was lack of time to find the right person for the right job, often a person with broad expertise in public health. Another difficulty was to find persons who could take responsibility as leaders and trainers. In order to socialize the newcomers into the organisation short courses and debriefing sessions were used. Persons, who stay too long in the field of humanitarian action and sometimes become cynical to the difficult situation they work in was also discussed as being problematic. This finding contradicts the otherwise frequently discussed question about the high turnover of personnel in humanitarian action. This article argues for the use of socialization theory in order to find sustainable solution to identified problems.

Keywords
Humanitarian action, aid workers, socialisation, qualitative research
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Research subject
Medicine
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-100880 (URN)
Available from: 2009-04-09 Created: 2009-04-09 Last updated: 2015-03-02

Open Access in DiVA

fulltext(1060 kB)1853 downloads
File information
File name FULLTEXT01.pdfFile size 1060 kBChecksum SHA-512
5d00c069410ea341cbe2aea7a8215276d7720103d0620f5608ab2a654d99ffdc457e6e3aa3fdaa271b39a76b95bdce3090c436ee099b45e6d5e280803ff96b75
Type fulltextMimetype application/pdf
Buy this publication >>

By organisation
Department of Women's and Children's Health
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology

Search outside of DiVA

GoogleGoogle Scholar
Total: 1853 downloads
The number of downloads is the sum of all downloads of full texts. It may include eg previous versions that are now no longer available

isbn
urn-nbn

Altmetric score

isbn
urn-nbn
Total: 3623 hits
CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf