Nurses' contribution to short-term humanitarian care in low- to middle-income countries: An integrative review of the literature

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Journal Article
Journal of Clinical Nursing, 2017, 26 (23-24), pp. 3950 - 3961
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© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Aims and objectives: To appraise the literature related to voluntary humanitarian work provided by international nurses in low- to middle-income countries. Background: Nurses and other health professionals are engaged with both governmental and nongovernmental organisations to provide care within international humanitarian relief and development contexts. Current literature describes accounts of charitable health professional activity within short-term health-focused humanitarian trips; however, there is minimal research describing the care that nurses provide and the professional roles and tasks they fulfil whilst participating in international volunteer healthcare service. Design: Integrative review. Methods: A search of articles published between 1995–2015 was conducted using seven bibliographic databases. Inclusion criteria incorporated nurses and allied health professionals' involvement in a volunteer short-term medical team capacity. Papers describing military and/or disaster response with a service-learning focus were excluded. Nineteen papers were selected for review, description and discussion of findings. Results: Findings revealed limited data describing the care nurses provide and the professional roles and tasks they fulfil within the context of international humanitarian short-term medical trips. Issues raised included a description of demographic data regarding participants and sending agencies, motivation for volunteer participation, perceptions of effectiveness of particular programmes and sustainability issues related to cultural, ethical or moral obligations of foreign health professionals working in a low- to middle-income countries. Conclusion: Study findings highlighted that although nurses are recruited and participate in health-focused humanitarian activities in low- to middle-income countries, there is extremely limited documented research about the amount and type of care that nurses specifically provide in this context. Furthermore, when identified, it is most often hidden within studies outlining services provided by healthcare teams and not specific to the discipline of nursing. Further research is therefore required to enable greater understanding of nursing care in this context and to inform prospective volunteers of expected nursing practice. Relevance to clinical practice: This article provides an analysis of available literature describing nursing involvement within the particular context of short-term medical teams delivering charitable health care.
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