© Gabriele François Casini/MSF
21 Oct 16 11 May 18

Becoming an MSF Nurse

We look for experienced professionals who are ready to handle whatever life in the field throws at them. Below you'll find some of the key skills and experience you'll need to be an MSF Nurse and what your career could look like at MSF. 

what you need and why

At least two years of experience as a nurse in the UK

Ideally you'll have experience in areas that are relevant to our work, such as HIV/TB, neonatology, Operation Theatre nursing or nutrition. This is because you will definitely have a higher level of responsibility in the field then you would have in the UK, and you need to be ready for that. You’ll be heading a department, managing a big team, and often caring for patients with complex problems that you probably wouldn't have seen in hospitals in the UK.

Experience working in a developing country

We need to know that you can manage living in very basic conditions before sending you out to an MSF project, both for you and for the team you’ll be working with. The skills you will learn from travelling and working in a developing country are vital for working with MSF. Many of our Nurses have done a placement abroad with other organisations before joining us. 

A diploma in tropical nursing

Most MSF projects are in tropical countries, where the common issues are malaria, dengue fever and parasitical infections. We also specialise in projects that care for patients with Neglected Tropical Diseases such as Ebola and Kala Azar, so we need to know that you have the knowledge and skills to care for people affected by these issues before you go out on mission.

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Language skills

Almost a 3rd of MSF projects are in French speaking countries and many of the humanitarian emergencies we have responded to in recent years have been in the Middle East. This means that nurses who speak fluent French or Arabic are in real demand.

The competition

We are an emergency organisation, so our needs for staff fluctuate depending on manmade or natural disasters. This means that sometimes, even if you have the skills and experience we look for, it may be difficult for us to find a role that will suit you.

what could your MSF career look like?

Everyone's career with MSF is different, but here are a few routes you could take if you decided that a career working for MSF is right for you.

Your first assignment

As a ‘first missioner’ you will be sent to a relatively secure and stable country. We rarely send someone on their first assignment to an emergency context because we find that most people need two to three months to settle into their new role. Usually, you will be sent to a team where there are experienced MSF nurses and/or doctors who can support you and help you build your ‘field skills’!

After one or two assignments, try another nursing role

There are many different nursing roles that you can work in within MSF, and once you have a bit of field experience MSF can support you to move between them to ‘round out’ your experience. For example, you could work as a Community Outreach Nurse, Therapeutic Feeding Centre Nurse, an ER Nurse or a Health Promoter.

Option 1: After four or five assignments, apply for a Medical Team Leader position

Once you have experience in various nursing roles you could apply to become a Medical Team Leader (MTL). An MTL is the person who plans and manages all the medical activities for a project. They work closely with the Project Coordinator as the ‘technical go-to’ for all medical matters in the project, supervising all medical staff in the project, both national and international. Find out more from Trish Newport a MTL in South Sudan. 

After a three or four assignments as a Medical Team Leader, apply as a Medical Coordinator

A Medical Coordinator is based in the capital of a country and provides support to all projects in the country. They also coordinate any ‘national’ medical needs, such as getting customs clearance to fly medication into the country, or evacuating a sick member of staff to a nearby country for medical treatment.

Option 2: After five or six missions, apply as a Project Coordinator

A Project Coordinator is in charge of developing the strategy for a project and managing it, by coordinating all the different departments of the project team to reach it's objectives and by coordinating MSF’s activities with those of other organisations. Find out more from Stephanie Remon, a Project Coordinator in Lebanon. 

After three or four missions as a Project Coordinator, apply as a Deputy Head of Mission

A Deputy Head of Mission works with the Head of Mission to support all the projects in the country, represent MSF at a national Level and make national level decisions.

After two or three missions as a Deputy Head of Mission, apply as a Head of Mission

A Head of Mission is the Country Director for an MSF mission. They make the final decisions of MSFs strategy in the country, both with regards to medical care and humanitarian affairs, as well as providing support to all of the projects in the country.