Medical Volunteers


Why Volunteer?

Huge Challenges combined with Lack of Health Care professionals

The Hospital plays a very important role in the health care of Mpongwe District, an area where 16 – 20 percent of people are infected by HIV/AIDs and other other health challenges such as TB, Malaria and Malnutrition are widespread.


There is a severe human resource shortage at all levels of the health system in Zambia. There is an estimated 12 doctors per 100.000 people. (Compare to 2.4 per 1,000 in the US and 2.5 in UK). In another UN estimate there are only 700 doctors in Zambia. Getting doctors to the rural area of Mpongwe is very difficult. There is also a shortage of nurses, dentists and other professionals.
Supporting us is an opportunity to contribute to the exciting process of development we are in.


Sister Erna Midwife Bernth-Ake-Nursing-Volunteers DrNelsonAndWife  Dr Hervius Musaka005 S5001778 NovDec2006066 S5001342 S5000830 


Consider a long term placement, 1 year, 3 months, or 8 weeks

In our experience it takes a substantial period of time before visiting medical professionals are able to get into the swing of things here. 8 weeks is more optimal than 6 weeks. Even longer is better. We are praying for volunteers who can consider a 1-3 year placement. Specifically we are looking for Doctors, Nurses, Surgeons, and Anaesthetists.



We partner with these organizations and hope that you will consider volunteering with us in cooperation with them.

• Scandinavian Doctors Sweden/Rotary Doctors Sweden 

• Friends of MBA Zambia in UK

• Give the Children of Mpongwe a Future



• National University of Ireland, Galway, Volunteer Services Abroad 

• University of Kristianstad

  and other schools including Oxford.


If your organization would like to assist us during this exciting time in our development please contact us about partnering.


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We would ask that medical volunteers multi-task and that you come with of mindset thinking beyond the medical services you provide. You may be able to assist us with computer support or to being a part of our development process. Educate yourself about what we are trying to accomplish by reading up on the details of our development program. Consider how you can enter into our process and encourage our process along.

  • Ask the Senior Medical Officer, Sister in Charge and Hospital manager about where they need support right now. Which values are they working toward? Are there behaviours or attitudes or methods that they have identified that they want to change or add? Think creatively about how you can encourage change in those areas.
  • If you identify positive change agents support them and encourage them.
  • Encourage a learning environment. Learning that comes from an ongoing process and self discovery rather than outside instructions can leave waves of positive effects.
  • Model positive values and stay committed to the highest level of care you can provide given the circumstances.
  • Keep your eyes open for opportunities to provide computer support.
  • Consider if you can assist us when we update our webpage or news blog while your are here, or if you can yourself contribute to our volunteer blog.
  • Read more about Mind-Set preparations.

Be prepared. Things will be different.

If you are coming from a large well equipped hospital be prepared for differences. We will not have the diagnostic facilities or tools that you are used to having. An example is anaesthesia equipment. You may fill more rolls than you normally fill. Come prepared to be flexible, and to think creatively.


The cases you see are likely to include snake bites, burns, malaria, HIV/AIDS, TB or other illnesses you may see rarely in Northern hospitals. 



The working days generally start at 0800 hours with the handover in the staff library followed by ward rounds and then OPD from about 12 hours. The patients are seen and screened by the Clinical Officer and referred to the doctor if necessary. Usually the workdays ends at 1600 hours and the person on call takes over.

Wednesday and Thursday are the days for ART clinic where the HIV/AIDs patients are monitored and get ARV medicines free of charge. Wednesdays are also outreach day for Anti-natal and Post-natal care in villages several hours away. Visiting nursing students have commented how meaningful they have experiences these outings.

Tuesdays and sometimes Thursdays are operation days in the main theatre. The minor theatre is open all the times for minor surgery and treatment


Cultural Differences

The truth is round and flexible, not hard and square. When you phrase your questions note that answers may be adjusted to what the person thinks you want to hear. For example: If you ask “How long have you been sick?” You may get an answer “2 days” although they have been ill for months. If you instead phrase it “I see that you don’t feel well. Have you been sick 2 years or 6 months?” the patient may answer closer to the truth. Phrase your questions carefully and you will increase the success of your diagnosis.


Before you come, prepare for your visit


Supplies, Recommendations

Medical/nursing volunteers will notice that supplies are minimal. Surgical clothing and clogs are available for the OR. Administrative staff at the hospital dress professionally (shirt with slacks but not a tie for men, women with a skirt and blouse with sweater or suit jacket).


PACK these things

· Stethoscope

· Disinfection solution for your hands, protective gloves and eye wear

· Oxfords Tropical Medicine handbook

· Flashlight for checking eyes

· Bring your own medical clothing (coat)

· Disposable supplies, tools or other things you might like to donate.


MJR_20080813_6728Scandinavian Doctors Sweden / Rotary Doctors Lodging and arrangements

There is a newly renovated house designated for Scandinavian Doctor Sweden and Rotary Doctors (Läkarbanken SLB/RLB). MBA and SLB/RLB have an agreed upon rate to be paid at the end of every month and at the end of each period. The sum covers rent for the house, electricity and water, salary for house attendant and garden attendant employed by MBA as well as basic maintenance for the house. The house attendant (maid) has an inventory list for the house and together with the member of SLB/RLB checks the contents in the house one time per period. Luanshya which is the nearest town about 60 km from MMH has a immigration office where you can get your passport stamped for longer visits. (You will only get one month stay permit at the arrival to Zambia) The procedure shall be free of charge according to the Zambian Embassy.




HarttoHart“Wednesday was a particularly heavy day – I saw 75 patients but no electricity and then no water in the evening.


“Every day I have had the opportunity to really improve health and even directly save lives – not rely upon statistical significance to probably affect an outcome.”


An unusual diagnosis and very fortunate guess

“On Female Ward we have a steady stream of odd infections that turn out to be HIV +ve. On Thursday the Clinical Officer admitted a lady with a two week history body wide eruption of small lumps. It looked like Von Recklinghausen’s but with barely any gaps between lesions now discharging pus and blood I gave her a trial of Cloxacillin and sent her for Pre-Test Counselling for HIV. Yesterday she was no different, and she was found to be “reactive” (the euphemism here for HIV +ve). I scratched my head. In my recent CME study notes I had come across a question about a woman with skin lumps and a positive Acid-Fast stain of a skin smear. Could it be? I checked in the Oxford Handbook of Tropical Medicine… and the lab can do the test. “Doctor, you are very clever!” comes the reply. No, it was just a very fortunate guess: leprosy. With a 6 month course of medication, it should come under control.”


Jungle Doctor meets Scrapheap Challenge

FrancisThomasSplint2“On Saturday I see a girl of seven who had a fractured mid-shaft left femur. The X-ray showed very obvious displacement. I remember being taught that you should never see an X-ray of a fractured femur that isn’t already in a Thomas splint. Mpongwe has no such appliance. Because of her age I wasn’t happy to simply consider weeks of traction leaving her with an inevitably shortened leg, and thought that internal fixation to the proper length at Ndola Hospital was required. Dr Okoko agreed, but there was no transport to take her and no Thomas splint. We could provide her mother with funds to transfer her to Ndola (presumably by bus!) but what to do in the meantime?


Dennis and a colleague were stripping some sort of engine down and a pile of scrap metal lay behind the carpentry shop. Broken beds, wheelchairs, bits of bicycle and obscure antediluvian medical devices were heaped up. Half an hour later, after a nifty bit of scavenging, using an angle grinder, two bolts, assorted washers, a hefty hammer and the vice, I was finished. Proper job! Padded with cotton wool gamgee and bandages from Theatres, a rope from a dusty cupboard, copious amounts of sticky strapping tape and the limb was immobilised and in traction. Possibly the most useful thing I have done here. After this, the resetting of the forearm was a bit of an anticlimax.”


“The medical work is challenging and stimulating; without paperwork, meetings, budgets or endless diktats from local or national control. If you can do it, you do, if you can’t, you don’t, or you ‘make a plan’ to try to do it differently.”


Sound interesting?

If this sort of experience sounds interesting please consider volunteering.


All volunteers are encouraged to prepare. We have gathered additional information for your preparation. 

MINDSET Preparations, READING Suggestions, DONATIONS (Suggested items to pack), Travel Journals from previous visitors, Facts about local challenges, as well as the pages about the hospital on this website.


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