What Skills do you Need to be a Medical Volunteer?

So, you want to be a medical volunteer? It is a worthy notion, one which can teach you how to be humble, helpful and grateful for what you have in life. But, medical volunteering can be difficult and trying at times. Especially if you are going to be volunteering in places such as the Democratic Republic of Congo where there is currently an Ebola outbreak. If the idea of working with such sickness does not deter you from volunteering, below are some skills you will need to make your venture a success.

A Medical or Healthcare Degree

In order to be a medical volunteer, many organisations require you to be studying towards a medical or healthcare degree. This is because some of the volunteer programmes take place in countries such as the DRC, where serious diseases are ravaging the people.

You will need to provide hands-on support to nurses and doctors, which means that you need to already have some form of medical experience. While you might not need professional experience, you will need to know basic first aid as well as have knowledge about general medical procedures. This will help you to properly assist the professional staff who desperately need extra hands in stressful times.

Good Organisational Skills

Any medical professional (or medical student) knows that being organised is one of the most important skills to have. As a medical volunteer, this skill is tantamount, as you will have to juggle different jobs, administrative duties and be able to multitask too.

Medical volunteers are not given harrowing work, but the work that you are given has to be completed on time and correctly. Think of it as practise for your job in a hospital, GP’s rooms or as a nurse. With organisational skills comes accuracy, one of the most vital attributes that a medical professional should have. Being a volunteer to prevent Ebola with MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) means that you need to be able to manage your time and divide it between the tasks the doctors give you, easily and efficiently.

A Respectful and Open Mind

Medical volunteering often takes you to foreign countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo. Here you will experience cultures that are the complete opposite of your own, and you will need to treat the people with respect and keep an open mind.

Many people in rural villages are wary of foreign doctors, which means that you will have to keep an open mind and respect their cultural practices. The misconceptions that many poorer countries practise herbal medicine as opposed to seeking medical help have made it difficult for many volunteers to understand the culture. But, if you listen to their concerns and take their opinions into account, you will be able to convince them to accept medical help and thus heal their ailments with ease and compassion.


Just because you are volunteering it does not mean that you can skimp on your responsibilities. You need to be a reliable person to be a successful medical volunteer. This is especially true if you are going to be volunteering in an area that is disease-stricken or has injuries due to war.

Being reliable means that you are willing and able to perform tasks and that you will not drop them at the last minute. You have to be able to help the medical professionals who you are assigned to without them having to worry about whether or not you will be there. Your skills will be improved by your volunteer experience, so be sure that you are always on time for your tasks and are an eager participant.


Medical professionals need to have compassion, as do medical volunteers. You will be dealing with people who have seen and been part of terrible things, as well as people who are sick and possibly dying. This might not sound like the volunteer experience that you hoped for, but it will help you later in your career.

Being compassionate means that you will show patients and their families that someone is there for them and that someone will care for them in their time of need. How you treat the patients can have a significant impact on their experience with the medical crew and their view of medical professionals in general. It might be difficult to be compassionate at first, you will be overwhelmed by new rules and tasks, but after a while, it will become second nature.

Final words

Being a medical volunteer can be daunting, but it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences you ever go through. You will need to have or be studying towards a medical or healthcare degree because this will give you the necessary expertise for the role. You will also need to have good organisational skills, be able to work with an open mind and be reliable.

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