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How Does MSF Find People to Work With It?
January 31, 2013
This article is part of the Winter 2013 issue of the MSF Alert newsletter.
Pakistan 2012 © Sam Phelps/MSF
Nick Lawson is MSF-USA’s Director of Field Human Resources.
We do a fair amount of outreach messaging. In 2012, we did 46 recruitment events that drew more than 2,500 people. Most people hear about us through articles or news reports about our work in the field. They see what we do and they like what we do. That’s the ideal recruitment scenario: They’re not so much inspired by the salary or the living conditions in the field — they’re inspired by the actions.
“MSF is an association — the French definition of association, that is, a group of people coming together to do something they believe in. We’re not paying huge amounts of money. We’re here because we genuinely want to be here.”
For medical staff, we’re quite clear about the qualifications and the experience we’re looking for. It’s more vague for non-medical staff. Logisticians, for example, come from a variety of backgrounds — people with liberal arts degrees, firefighters, engineers, architects, or mechanics. What’s most important is international experience and exposure to different cultures. Acceptance requirements are very stringent because we want to know that a candidate can hit the ground running and there are a limited number of positions.
MSF is an association — the French definition of association, that is, a group of people coming together to do something they believe in. We’re not paying huge amounts of money. We’re here because we genuinely want to be here. The last point of MSF’s charter says that as volunteers, we understand the risks, and we don’t ask for anything more than the organization can afford in terms of compensation. That’s one of MSF’s key characteristics — that engagement. You have to believe in it.
Finding the time to be a part of MSF is about your own personal choices and what you think is valuable in your life. You have to balance the rewards of working for the organization against what society, friends, or family might believe are the markers of a successful life. For me, the things that I’ve learned, the people I’ve interacted with, and the situations I’ve been in are just astonishing. They make my time with MSF worth it.
I think medical professionals like to work with MSF because it takes them back to the fundamental essence of the medical act and the Hippocratic oath. They can use their skills to do excellent work that’s not about the HMO or the legal environment. It’s about doing the very best you can as a human being to benefit another human being. That’s the essence of MSF.