Choosing Between Moral Injury and Burnout: MedSend Launches a Response to Healthcare Missionary Crisis

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Identifying The Cause

Recently, MedSend sponsored The Healthcare Member Care Leadership Summit where we invited the leaders of the member care departments of our largest healthcare mission sending agency partners to discuss innovative ways to address the challenges healthcare missionaries are facing.

Over the last decade MedSend has observed increasing numbers of healthcare missionaries returning from field service in what can be described as a burned-out condition. They are exhibiting clinical signs of PTSD and Moral Injury. In response, we began conducting exit interviews with those returning from the field. A sample of the issues identified in these interviews are listed below (in no order): 

  • Overwork associated with burnout  
  • Isolation and lack of support 
  • Issues with leadership or management  
  • Personal safety  
  • Team issues / interpersonal conflict  
  • Medical problem or need for ongoing counseling  
  • Cultural adjustment problem  

 

A Warning for the Future

Dr. Jim Ritchey, a former healthcare missionary who now works with MedSend to spearhead our response, warns that in these settings of great medical need and short medical supply, if these healthcare professionals do everything that is asked of them, they will surely burn out. If they do not do everything asked of them, they suffer moral injury by way of guilt over not fulfilling their duty. We believe we are uniquely positioned to support our partners and those we send in managing these critical needs and helping protect them from harmful outcomes. 

 

MedSend’s Plan of Action

In light of this, MedSend is preparing to launch an initiative which will encourage healthcare missionaries to identify the care they need as they need it. The model is for MedSend to select and approve organizations which focus on the types of services healthcare missionaries need in order to thrive on the field. These will include, but not be limited to, mental health counseling, spiritual development, coaching/mentoring, conflict management, on-field retreats, and children’s education. Participation in the program will be by subscription.

The program ultimately will be available for mission sending organizations, individuals, and other interested parties to enroll for an annual fee. MedSend will then offer a grant to those participating which can be applied to the services offered by the approved MedSend partners. A pilot project is scheduled to launch in the spring of 2023. Enrollment will initially be limited to MedSend to the World grant recipients and our alumni still on the field. 

MedSend’s vision of  bringing hope to the world through compassionate healthcare can only be realized if the medical missionaries we send have the support they need to build the resilience this kind of mission work requires. Will you donate today to continue saving lives?

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