Médecins Sans Frontières/ Doctors Without Borders (MSF) recruits medical, administrative, and logistical support personnel to provide medical care to people in crisis in more than 60 countries worldwide. Every year, around 3,000 MSF field staff provide lifesaving medical assistance to people who would otherwise be denied access to even the most basic health care.
This is a general overview of the minimum requirements for working with MSF. These requirements can change without prior notice in response to organisational and field needs. Be sure to refer to your specific profession in Who We Need for detailed information on the additional technical skills required of your profile.
Essential Criteria for all Potential Field Workers
To work in the field with MSF, every applicant must meet the following general requirements:
- At least two years of relevant professional experience
For most profiles we require a minimum of two years relevant professional experience, post graduation.
For physicians (excluding surgeons, ob-gyns, and anaesthetists), completion of PGY2 satisfies this requirement. Nurses are required to have a minimum of three years professional experience. People with a medical background also require current and valid registration with the appropriate board/authority (this may be in your home country if you are not yet registered in Australia/New Zealand), and must display no recent gap in clinical experience greater than two years.
- Availability for a minimum 9 to 12 months
Most first missions are nine to twelve months long.
This level of commitment is a requirement because of the degree of responsibility MSF humanitarian workers are expected to assume, the time needed to acclimatize to a project and context, and the need for continuity among field staff for the benefit of both our locally hired staff and patients.
Due to the nature of their workload while in the field, a shorter time commitment is required of surgeons, anaesthetists, ob-gyns, OT nurses, and electricians.
- Experience in low income/ developing countries and remote/ rural areas
Since MSF works mostly in developing countries, recent and relevant experience working, volunteering, living, and/or traveling abroad, particularly in Africa, Asia, Central or South America is essential.
We are most interested in instances where you have been outside your comfort zone – although this may generally be outside of Australia and New Zealand, some domestic activities will also be applicable; particularly relevant work experiences in rural or remote areas, and within indigenous communities.
The ability to train others, to act independently and to organise well, wherever you might be working, are prerequisites for satisfactory job performance during a project.
- Demonstrated capacity for team management/supervision and training
Every MSF humanitarian worker will be in a supervisory or management position in the field and will often spend more of their time overseeing and training others than doing hands-on work themselves. In the majority of positions, one of the primary responsibilities will be to manage a team of national staff, build their capacity, run training workshops and take on planning and administrative duties for their department, including the performance management of staff.
Details of your experience in supervision, preceptoring, mentoring, coaching, managing, and coordinating, should be included in your application, whether directly related to your profession or not.
The ability to manage staff respectfully, responsibly and compassionately is an essential criteria for anyone coming to work with MSF in the field.
- Demonstrated ability to live and work as a team
An MSF team is made up of medical and non-medical professionals from an array of nationalities and cultural backgrounds. While the rewards are great, it can be a challenge. MSF field workers live and work together. The hours are long and the living conditions may be basic and offer little privacy. You need to be tolerant and flexible and possess solid interpersonal skills.
The ability and willingness to interact with people of all nationalities and cultures is essential.
- Willingness to work in potentially unstable environments
MSF projects are designed to specifically to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people in terms of healthcare. The nature of our work means that just over half of our projects are in unstable contexts due to conflict, instability, or post-conflict challenges. It is impossible to exclude all risks, but we do our utmost as an organisation to mitigate these risks through strict security protocols.
In the last five years South Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Papua New Guinea, and Nigeria have featured in the top ten countries that MSF has most frequently sent Australian and New Zealander fieldworkers.
Working for Médecins Sans Frontières is a deeply personal choice; individuals must determine for themselves the level of risk and the circumstances in which they feel comfortable. As an MSF field worker you will often find yourself in an insecure environment; working in these particular regions implies an inherent risk or danger is present.
- Understanding of and commitment to the Médecins Sans Frontières Charter
MSF operates independently of any political, military, or religious agenda, observes neutrality, and provides impartial care delivered on the basis of need alone. These principles of action are described in MSF’s founding charter, and should resonate with anyone thinking of applying to MSF.
By applying to work with MSF you should be aware that the organisation strives to provide access to healthcare for the most vulnerable populations, wherever they might be. Demonstrable knowledge of MSF’s humanitarian principles, our work around the world, and the humanitarian sector in general, indicate your understanding of the responsibilities you are applying for.
- Flexibility and adaptability
To reflect changing needs in the field, activities can shift quickly and job descriptions change accordingly. Working environments, security protocols, and team size/composition may also change during assignments.
Your ability to be flexible and adaptable—both personally and professionally—is critical to your success on an MSF mission.
- Ability to manage stress
Many MSF projects are located in or near conflict areas. The environment is often chaotic and volatile and the target populations are large and in distress.
Even in more stable areas, sizeable workloads and team living may cause stress.
You must be able to cope in a difficult and unpredictable environment. MSF offers support to field staff in managing in stress before, during and after missions.
- Computer skills
All MSF humanitarian workers write and submit reports, and many are involved in data collection. To apply to MSF you must have basic computer skills and must be comfortable using Microsoft Office applications (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint).
While not required, prior experience using any database software is an asset.
The following are not essential, but are very highly valued. If accepted into our pool of humanitarian workers, individuals with these assets will be eligible for more positions and will usually be placed more quickly:
- Flexible dates of availability
The more restricted your dates of availability, the more difficult it can be to match you with an appropriate field position. Those with flexible dates of availability – for example, ability to commit to 9+ months in-field within a 12+ month window of opportunity - will be eligible for more positions.
- Ability to depart with short notice
Some MSF projects are launched in response to sudden crises, whether natural or anthropogenic, requiring field workers who are available at short notice once successfully recruited.
- Language skills (mainly French and Arabic)
A significant number of MSF's missions are in French and Arabic speaking countries, therefore these language skills are highly desirable as they allow for more opportunities for placement.
Fluency is valuable but not essential—a competent level of spoken French or Arabic is more important.
While less urgently needed, skills in other languages, such as Spanish, Portuguese, or Russian are also assets in the field.
- Interest and/or experience in international humanitarian issues, international relations, anthropology
- Previous field experience in a similar role with a non-government organisation