The experience of humanitarian nursing in developing countries
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Humanitarian aid work by health care professionals in developing countries has increased in recent years as healthcare professionals become more aware of global inequalities in health. Disaster relief, basic health promotion including immunisation, surgical, medical and military interventions are the major areas in which health professionals engage in the alleviation of suffering and efforts to improve health outcomes. While much has been documented in literature on the perceptions of healthcare professionals, little has been published internationally on the nature of nurses’ experiences of humanitarian work in surgical contexts. This study has explored nurses’ experiences of humanitarian work in developing countries. A qualitative descriptive research methodology was selected. Purposive sampling was used to recruit four nurses who had volunteered for humanitarian work from New Zealand. Data comprised taped in-depth conversational interviews and analysis was undertaken using van Manen (1997) methodological steps. Findings revealed that nurses’ experience of providing humanitarian aid comprises: feeling anxious, worried and being misunderstood, practising differently and adjusting to life back home. The continued adjusting and readjusting required by such work realises the nurses’ potential both personally and professionally. The findings of this study highlight the need to better prepare nurses who volunteer for humanitarian work in developing countries. Recommendations have therefore been made for recruiting organisations, education, practice and further research. Nurses who have an interest in such work may also benefit from these findings because they offer first-hand experiences that illuminate the nature of humanitarian work in developing countries.