Hello DocTours: I’m a doctor so what can I do? We work directly with a number of hospitals and medical clinics across 8 developing countries. Each of them provides free healthcare (or a patient may be charged based on their ability to pay) to local impoverished people. They are usually short-staffed and the local staff may not be well trained or have access to ongoing professional development. We therefore work with each individual hospital to identify where your skills and experience would be the best fit. You may be working alongside other staff, once you have settled in you may be seeing your own patients. You may be asked to prepare some lectures on topics where you have specific skills or experience, you may be reviewing procedures and you may find yourself coaching or mentoring local staff, nurses or students.
Hello DocTours: I’m not a doctor so what can I do? Even though we focus on medical and healthcare placements we also find worthwhile and interesting volunteer work for anyone. We often receive requests for doctors’ partners/ parents/ children/ friends who wish to travel together and we can easily place them in roles such as helping local children with their English lessons, reading or homework. One of the hospitals that we work with has set up a library and craft centre so that long-term patients can be kept busy with activities that help to keep their mind active. One of our volunteers was a mechanic and he proved very handy at fixing everything that was broken in the local village.
Will I meet their expectations? Yes – more than likely! The hospital will review your CV and qualifications and takes a view on where and how you can help them. We arrange your local medical registration and provide you with checklists and an information guide to help you prepare for your journey.
The experience will be challenging and it will take you out of your comfort zone. Therefore please go with the flow, ask questions and don’t be afraid to get involved. Relax, aim to do your best and enjoy the experience.
What hours am I expected to work? This is an easy one! Usually 8.30 am through to 3-4 pm with a lunch break. Monday to Friday. Your hosts and your supervisor will discuss your hours with you when you arrive. Our volunteers are not expected to work shifts or weekends.
It is the end of my first day of volunteering however I was not rushed off my feet! Don’t worry. It may take a few days to settle in and therefore use your first few days to get to know your colleagues, the patients, their conditions and their resources. Observe how they do things, ask questions and learn some of the local language. You probably have some good suggestions and ideas – however it is best to take some time to understand their ways first and develop their trust. When you build the relationships it becomes easier to introduce alternative ways to doing things. One of our young nurses who volunteered in Cambodia advised the following: “The thing with the Khmer people is you have to be careful and tactful on how to try and educate the nursing staff. The way I found my way around gaining their trust and friendship was by learning their language, well trying to anyway. Not that my Khmer is perfect but the nurses can see that I am trying to make an effort to learn their language so they became a lot more receptive in letting me teach them and ask them questions about their practical skills.”
Will my deposit be refunded if there is not a place for me? Yes! Your deposit becomes non-refundable after your placement is confirmed. If you need to reschedule your trip, for any reason, we are happy to arrange new dates for you.
The Accommodation? We use home-stays and guesthouses that are safe, clean and convenient. However, sometimes our volunteers would prefer to stay somewhere different (eg somewhere cheaper or more private). That is fine – just let us know and we can suggest some alternatives and adjust the price accordingly.
Is it safe? We do not send volunteers into dangerous environments (we avoid countries that are experiencing wars, political unrest, terrorism or natural disasters). We want you to be absolutely safe and therefore we do our best to mitigate potential risks. The work environment and accommodation we use is with reputable providers. We visit each location and provide you with the benefit of our research and experience.
Will there be other volunteers there? Usually there are other volunteers helping – some are short term while others are there for a longer period. They may originate from different parts of the world. However you will have many things in common – including a desire to help and a passion to explore.
Any other questions? Please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org – we are here to help!
Why volunteer? The reasons for volunteering are varied and the main reasons include:
i. to ‘give something back’ and a genuine desire to help those who are less fortunate;
ii. to take themselves out of their comfort zone to be challenged both personally and professionally;
iii. experience of living and working in a foreign environment and immersion in the local culture;
iv. professional development and learn new skills.
Patients really appreciate anything that you can do to help them and staff are generally receptive to an extra pair of hands and the opportunity to learn and exchange new ideas with you. You may wish to take some medical supplies with you to use and donate to the clinic or hospital and we can give you some suggestions on their current needs. In all cases, we recommend taking your own antiseptic hand gel, gloves and masks as well as your own first aid kit.
Take yourself out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary. Give something back – it’s life changing.
What type of voluntary work can I do?
You can do volunteer work in a wide range of medical and healthcare projects. There are also teaching and childcare projects for non-medical partners. Your voluntary placement will be aimed to suit your skills, experience and interests as well as ensure that the local community benefits from your visit.
You can choose your destination, the duration and timing however each program will be an amazing and worthwhile opportunity to assist others who are in need of your medical and professional skills. You will also be encouraged to share your knowledge and experience with local staff so that they can continue your good work. This may involve coaching, mentoring or training (both formal and informally on the job).
The Application Form, CV and supporting material will be used to evaluate each applicant’s maturity, motivation, skills, health and cultural sensitivity. Let us know your preferences so we can find the best placement for you. If there are any areas where you do not wish to work please also let us know on your Application Form.
We do our best to find an ideal voluntary placement for you based on your preferences and skills. We want to make full use of your skills and experiences however please try to remain flexible and professional. Please note that your work will be in line with your level of training and experience. You will be taken out of your comfort zone however you should not feel compelled to undertake work outside your area of expertise. Try to enjoy the experience and not feel anxious – we suggest proceeding with an open mind and the goal to just ‘do your best’.
We have access to many hospitals and clinics throughout Asia-Pacific and Africa. However, please note that they are generally short-staffed and have very limited resources and facilities. Their access to diagnostic tools and the standard of treatment will not be the same as Australia so please be prepared for basic conditions and back to basics medicine!
Patient records are usually in English and most staff speak English, however patients are generally less confident in communicating in this way. You may therefore team up with another staff member, or a more junior practitioner who will interpret for you and learn from your experience, or in some cases, you may have an interpreter assigned to you.
In each case you will need initiative and flexibility to help out where needed – although you will not be expected to work outside your area of expertise, experience or qualifications. Be open-minded and ask lots of questions to learn and understand their local ways.
What is included in the Volunteer Placement Fee?
We do not receive any financial support from the government or donations or outside funding, so volunteers need to pay their own way. Therefore the voluntary placement fee is used to pay the direct costs of your visit plus a contribution towards the costs of maintaining the local clinic or hospital where you are working to benefit the broader community.
The over-riding objectives are to ensure that our volunteers do not replace local jobs and do not create a financial burden on local partners in developing countries. Whilst donations are made to those organisations, they are not regular payments that could compromise their own longevity.
Doctors, medical specialists, nurses, midwives, paramedics, physiotherapists, dentists and allied healthcare staff are welcome.
Medical electives, medical student placements, interns, resident medical officers, nursing students and healthcare students from all medical disciplines are welcome.
Non-medical partners can help teach English to the local school children (no formal teaching qualifications are required).
Each program will be an amazing and worthwhile opportunity to assist others who are in need of your medical and professional skills, experience and support. Sharing your knowledge in the workplace is important and you may be asked to run some training sessions to help develop the local staff and build their skills and capabilities. What a great addition to your resume or CV!
You pick the date, duration and destination. Just 2 weeks can make a world of difference. Most placements need you for two weeks and some prefer a longer period. You cannot change the world in two weeks, however you can certainly make an impact during that time and it goes without saying if you stay longer you can achieve more!
How far in advance do I need to book?
It is best to book at least two to six months in advance, however it is also possible to arrange bookings at very short notice if you wish to travel soon. Please make sure your passport is current and your vaccinations are up to date.
DOCTOURS – A one-stop-shop, focused on healthcare and taking care of all the arrangements including Visas, Registration, pre- departure information and support.
We access a variety of hospitals and medical clinics in major towns as well as remote areas. Please ask us for information about any other destinations.
On your return home:
Volunteers are encouraged to reflect on their experiences and this may be a formal process (ie for professional development credits, CPD points) or private (ie keeping a journal). Personal experiences may be broadened through travel and local sightseeing whilst overseas. What a great addition to your resume or CV.
Following your return to Australia, your feedback will be sought so that we can continue to monitor and improve the programs. We also welcome an article (with photos) about your experience that we can publish in one of the medical journals or our newsletter. Many of your colleagues and family will love reading about your adventure!