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Everyone who trains as a doctor does so, at least in part, because they want to help people in need. Many doctors see people affected by crises, conflicts or disasters, or living in poverty, and want to use put their training to use providing medical assistance. There are many NGOs that run health projects in crises and post-crises settings, as well as in communities living in destitution. As a result, there are a wide range of jobs in the NGO sector open to doctors. Here we go over some of the most common jobs NGOs recruit doctors for…
A first job NGOs often recruit doctors for is the position of Medical Coordinator. The Med Co is the most senior position overseeing an NGO’s health programme. They have responsibility for setting the project’s strategic direction, as well as feeding into funding proposals and grant management. The Med Co usually reports to the Head of Programmes or Country Director.
As a senior level medical role, doctors are commonly hired for Med Co positions. The Med Co is usually based at the NGO’s country office – in the capital or major city, but they will travel frequently to field bases to monitor projects.
How to Apply
You will need to be medically qualified in order to get a job as Medical Coordinator for an NGO. Being a doctor can be a major advantage. However, as a senior management role in the NGO sector, you will also need several years’ experience working on NGO health projects in order to get the job.
Health Programme Manager
A second NGO job that doctors are often hired for is Health Programme Manager. This role is similar to that of the Medical Coordinator – in that it oversees an NGO’s health programmes. However, the Health Programme Manager focuses more on project implementation, whereas the Med Co retains a degree of strategic oversight as well. On large NGO missions, the Health Programme Manager can be line-managed by the Med Co, on smaller missions it usually replaces the Med Co role and is managed by the Country Director.
NGO Health Programme Managers split their time between working on the frontline overseeing health projects, and feeding into design and planning at country office level.
How to Apply
As with the Med Co role, you will need to be medically qualified to work as a Health Programme Manager with an NGO. Being a doctor is highly sought for this role by NGOs. However, as a management-level role you will also need several years’ experience working on NGO health projects in order to apply.
A third job that NGOs recruit doctors for is MHPSS Officer. In the NGO sector, MHPSS stands for mental health and psycho-social support. Increasingly, NGOs are seeing mental health as a key part of their programmes, and recruit staff, including doctors, who are experienced in mental health work.
The MHPSS Officer is usually stationed at the field base and is responsible for the day-to-day activities of an NGO’s mental health programmes. They will report either to an MHPSS Coordinator, or the Med Co. The MHPSS Officer will oversee a team of Case Workers and Social Workers.
How to Apply
If you are a doctor with a specialism in mental health, consider applying for MHPSS Officer roles. Although you will likely need some experience in NGO project management, NGOs often struggle to recruit for MHPSS positions and so your medical qualifications may be enough.
Although there are many sector-specific roles that doctors can take in NGOs, actually NGO’s also regularly recruit medical doctors to directly work on their health programmes. Lots of NGOs support health centers providing medical aid to people affected by conflicts or disasters, or living in poverty. NGOs need doctors to work in these clinics.
Medical doctors on NGO projects can either be hired directly by the NGO, or can be staff of the local health authority, and the NGO provides incentive payments, equipment, drugs and trainings. Doctors on NGO projects have responsibilities essentially similar to doctors in the public sector, but often work in tough crisis or post-crisis contexts.
How to Apply
If you have completed your studies and are a fully qualified doctor, consider applying for medical doctor roles on NGO projects. As NGO doctors often work in very difficult environments, being able to show experience, or at least an understanding, of providing medical care in these sorts of settings will usually be needed.
NGO Nursing Online Courses
If you are interested in working as an NGO doctor, Emory University offers an online course on Health in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies. We think it’s the best short course providing an overview of the key concepts of NGO health projects. Follow the link to the course’s page.
We also highly recommend the University of Copenhagen’s online short course in Non-Communicable Diseases in Humanitarian Settings. Only taking around 15 hours to complete, we think it’s a great addition to the CV of anyone applying for NGO medical roles. Click the link to find out more.
Another great online course for those looking to become an NGO doctor is the Manchester University course Global Health and Humanitarianism. It takes a wider approach and looks at how humanitarian aid can address public health issues. The link is to the course’s page.
In the NGO sector, SRH stands for sexual and reproductive health. Many NGOs run projects helping women, men and families improve their family planning and sexual health. They also run programmes for women assisting with their reproductive health. As a highly technical area, NGOs often hire doctors in the position of SRH Advisor.
The job of the SRH Advisor is to provide technical guidance to an NGO’s SRH project. They usually do not directly line-manage staff, but feed into project design, proposal development and grant management. They are also responsible for ensuring the quality of the NGO’s SRH programme.
How to Apply
Many doctors take the position of SRH Advisor with NGOs. If you are a doctor with a specialism in sexual and reproductive health, you are well placed to apply. However, as a senior advisory role, you will also need several years’ experience working on NGO health projects, ideally with an SRH component.
Health Project Officer
A mid-level position in the NGO sector that doctors often do is Health Project Officer. The Health Project Officer is based at field-level and directly works on the NGO’s health programme. They usually divide their time between the field office and the NGO’s medical clinic. They are essentially the frontline staff ensuring that the NGO’s health programme is running correctly.
The Health Project Officer usually reports to the Health Programme Manager, or to the Field Coordinator who manages the field base. They usually work closely with the medical doctors, either hired by the NGO or working for the local health authority. They also deliver trainings, and ensure medical supplies are in-place.
How to Apply
NGOs often hire doctors in the role of Health Project Officer – you need to be medically qualified to take the job. You will also need an understanding of NGO project management, as well as probably having a few years’ experience in the NGO sector.
A final NGO job that doctors often take is that of Health Advisor. Large NGOs implementing health projects will have the position of Health Advisor to provide quality control and technical guidance for their programmes. The Health Advisor doesn’t usually manage the health programme team, but will provide inputs on how the project is ran, assist with project planning and feed heavily into proposal development and grant management.
The Health Advisor on an NGO mission is usually based at country office level, but may be stationed at the NGO’s HQ providing guidance across several country programmes. They usually report to the Country Director if working at mission level, or the Head of the Health Department if based at HQ.
How to Apply
As a senior level advisory role, you will need significant experience working on NGO health projects in order to get a job as a Health Advisor with an NGO. You will need a medical background, so being a doctor can be a major advantage.
If you want to learn more about working as a doctor in the NGO sector, see our page on the top NGO healthcare courses here. If you want to know more about working in the NGO sector in general, explore our page on the top NGO online courses here.