5 Ways to Prepare for a Successful Mission Trip
It’s no surprise that medical professionals are among some of the most willing people to go on a mission trip. They are healers, servants of the public after all, so it is only natural that they want to use the skills they studied for years to obtain to help those who are in need in other places.
But some of you doctors and nurses who are just starting to think about what medical missions would entail have no clue what you are getting yourself into. At LiveBeyond, we’ve lead thousands of medical professionals on mission trips to Haiti and beyond, so we’ve come up with five ways you might need to prepare yourself for a successful medical mission trip, with us or with another organization.
1. Be prepared. If you are a volunteer medical professional, take some time to familiarize yourself with the medical practices within the country or region you are working in. Learn what options are feasible to offer patients and the limitations you might face in treatment due to cultural issues, lack of resources, or local rule of law. It’s also important to check into licensure requirements in the location you will serve and to acquaint yourself with diseases and infections that you might not see at home but you will see as a volunteer. This is of particular importance in tropical medicine. LiveBeyond offers specialized training for medical professionals before any volunteer sees a patient in the clinic. We want to ensure that you are able to offer the best possible care and that the patients who walk through our doors never have to question the quality of the health care we provide.
2. Bring a servant heart. Serving in another country is not easy. You have to deal with cultural differences, language barriers and a number of other factors that can make people uncomfortable. But when medical volunteers abroad take a servant’s heart with them into the field, they can serve their patients and their teammates as well. Not only does this make interactions with your patients more enjoyable, but it allows for team cohesion and a better experience for not just you but everyone who has traveled with you. Some of the best examples of showing a servant heart to others on medical mission trips are refilling collective water jugs, volunteering to set up the morning coffee, taking out the trash, or restocking medicines for the next day. These small acts of kindness build up and improve the well-being of your entire team.
3. Bring your family or friends along. While this might not be a possibility for all organizations, at LiveBeyond we offer options that allow for friends and family members of medical professionals to participate on mission trips. Non-medical personnel can help patients fill out intake forms, treat minor skin issues, or assist nurses in the Maternal Health program. They can serve outside the clinic as assistants in the Kè Pou Timoun program, the Agriculture program, or any of the various education opportunities we offer to locals on the base. This is not an option for everyone as age and health restrictions for applicants apply, but it opens up the chance for families to serve together in a way that exponentially increases the effectiveness of the mission.
4. Expect the unexpected. In international medical relief, you never know what you will come across. Many times, you will experience a routine day – patients have many of the same issues that you see as a healthcare provider back in your hometown. And on other days – anything goes! You might see festering wounds with spiders crawling in and out (speaking from actual experience!), more UTIs than you can count, complicated baby deliveries, or even Botflies protruding from someone’s head. The important thing to do is to be satisfied with the quality care you are providing no matter how mundane a day you might have, but be ready to jump into action if something more challenging comes along.
5. Learn from each experience. This last point is important for non-medical and medical personnel alike. There are always ways we can improve our standard of care. This is especially true in missions as you tend to have so many opportunities to learn from your fellow trip participants, your patients, and even your translators. Medical professionals can gain valuable knowledge interacting with patients in such a different setting from their typical practice. These interactions might change the way you carry out bedside manner, how you deal with conflict among your co-workers, or even how you treat patients back home. For non-medical people, especially high school and college students, mission trips can offer a first glimpse into a career path in healthcare. No matter your situation or background, the mission field is ripe with opportunities to learn and grow, both personally and professionally. Take advantage of each situation by seeking out ways to improve and learn.
Learn about our mission trips here.
Read how one physical therapist made a difference on her mission trip here.
View dates and sign up for a medical mission trip here. 2019 and 2020 dates are now available!
Hear from Dr. Vanderpool about what to expect on mission trips on this podcast transcript.
Hear the latest news from Haiti, read posts about faith and community development, and find transcriptions from the LiveBeyond podcast.