Nurse midwives and their students are among the hundreds of thousands of people from wealthy parts of the world who travel abroad every year to participate in short-term programs intended to improve the health and well-being of people in poor countries. Considering the horrific toll of maternal and infant mortality in so many countries, the potential for improving health and quality of life draws students and professionals who want to alleviate suffering as well as learn about the world.
Short-term medical missions (STMMs) have been praised for the dedication of volunteers and their valuable impact in poor communities. At the same time, these trips have increasingly been subject to severe criticism for promoting ‘drive-by humanitarianism’ and as a new form of colonialism. North American medical faculty have expressed increasing concern about untrained and unlicensed students “practicing” medicine in ways they cannot (and should not) do at home. And many well-intentioned volunteers return from their trips wondering whether they made a difference. So how valuable are STMMs, either to the volunteers or to the communities they visit? Read More