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Chronic health conditions

March 18, 2015

Q. Hi Nick I found your blog whilst looking at international aid work. At the end of my education I will be a fully qualified physician associate. My question is can I do aid work with a chronic condition, I have a long-term neuralgic condition which requires medication but not much in the way of hospital treatment? I would love to get in to this field and use my skills where they are most needed. Any insight would be helpful.

A. Hi there – first of all, congratulations on your graduation!

So – the issue of long-term medical conditions. The broader question that I get quite a lot is whether particular disabilities or health conditions disqualify you for particular jobs. Unfortunately the answer can vary depending on where you are, and what country the organization hiring you is based but, in my experience there are a couple of things to consider:

1. Are you able to carry out the tasks in the job with or without reasonable accommodation on the part of your employer? Now, if the job description required you to drive, but your condition meant you couldn’t, that would not be a good fit, but if your condition is largely managed by medication then you should be fine.

2. The second issue is whether the location you are going to has adequate healthcare facilities. If you need regular treatment or availability of treatment in an emergency, and it is not present in the country you are going to that might be a deal breaker.

Basically you need to look at what the job requires, and what you need, and figure out whether there is a good match. In the main well treated chronic conditions don’t disqualify you for work. You might want to check out my interview with Tiana Tozer, which touches on this issue.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Ehren permalink
    April 4, 2015 10:34 am

    Good day to you 🙂

    I’m a medical doctor who has not gotten my medical license yet. I have a year off till residency. I have no previous experience abroad but have a passion for teaching. What options are available for me?

    • April 10, 2015 9:17 am

      Hi there Ehren,
      Given that you’re not licensed or experienced as a doctor, I would not recommend you try to work in the medical field – while medical staff are in demand, you generally need several years of experience in practice before agencies will take you.
      What would you teach? If you have experience, and a useful skill, then that could be useful, but honestly, I’d need a little more to go on.
      Good luck!

      • Ehren permalink
        April 15, 2015 10:57 am

        I could teach on psychiatric topics. For example discuss trauma theory and how to help promote healing post traumatic events. Or suicide prevention education.

      • April 15, 2015 11:09 am

        I don’t know Ehren – I don’t think I’ve ever seen that as a role in humanitarian deployments, but you might try contacting some medical agencies and offering. You might look into post-deployment or post-trauma counseling for deployed aid-workers – that’s a role I know some agencies use for critical incident debriefing.
        Good luck,

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