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Med. Sci. 2019, 7(1), 9; https://doi.org/10.3390/medsci7010009

Professionalisation of International Medical Volunteer Work to Maintain Ethical Standards: A Qualitative Study Exploring the Experience of Volunteer Doctors in Relation to UK Policy

Department of Anaesthetics, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Glasgow G4 0SF, UK
Received: 2 November 2018 / Revised: 18 December 2018 / Accepted: 8 January 2019 / Published: 14 January 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Recent Advances in Health Improvement Strategies)
PDF [495 KB, uploaded 14 January 2019]

Abstract

Doctors from the United Kingdom are increasingly involved in international medical volunteerism in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Although supported by government policy this practice lacks infrastructure and coordination. Volunteer activities can have positive impact but also risk causing harm. Without external governance the responsibility lies with volunteers and their organisations to self-evaluate their activities. This study aimed to explore influences affecting volunteer engagement with ethical standards and evaluative practice. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven doctors working in the Scottish National Health Service with volunteer experience in LMICs. Findings were analysed thematically to explore this issue in view of ongoing policy development. Although ethical standards were valued by participants they were unaware of relevant government policy. Influences on volunteer development are unstructured and vary in quality. Evaluation lacks structure and framing. Volunteer physicians face a number of barriers to engaging in critical evaluation of their activities in LMICs. Development and professionalization of medical volunteering in LMICs needs to address volunteer preparation and evaluative practice to maximise the benefits of volunteering, reduce the risk of harm and maximise learning and accountability. Further areas of research are suggested to inform professionalisation of this sector.
Keywords: volunteer; global; international; medical; ethics; policy volunteer; global; international; medical; ethics; policy
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Eadsforth, H. Professionalisation of International Medical Volunteer Work to Maintain Ethical Standards: A Qualitative Study Exploring the Experience of Volunteer Doctors in Relation to UK Policy. Med. Sci. 2019, 7, 9.

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