Table 2

Challenges of working with international medical volunteers and VSO

SubthemeQIllustrative quotes
Language17“they [volunteers] are not from here; the attendant is talking to them, but they are not getting if there is no translator. Someone should be there to translate so which means if they are on the ward alone, without someone who understands the language, it becomes a challenge. So, language barrier is a problem.” (P11, GRRH)
Cultural sensitivity18“the way we talk is not as soft as the international volunteers would communicate… maybe the international volunteer would think that ‘ahh this one is rude!’, so but it might not be the case.” (P7, GRRH)
19“we are also frank with them [volunteers], ‘we are not whites, we may not come in time like they do, and we also stay far, we also don’t also have the transport. So, if I come late you better not become annoyed at me or get annoyed, but I always try’.’” (P7, GRRH)
Differences in policy and guidelines20“how they [volunteers] look at like the protocols, how they follow our systems, they are not straight forward like theirs. So, it affects their performance and at a times they also feel it as a challenge. But all in all, they try to adjust and try to work within the minimum and the systems that are available.” (P14, PM, GRRH)
Volunteer personalities21“there are some difficulties because that is their [volunteers] personality. Sometimes they don’t like to be corrected, they think they know.” (P8, GRRH)
22“some of them [volunteers]… had a negative attitude, and they were not forthcoming… they come in as, ‘I know it all, you don’t need to tell me anything’… but at the end of the day, we just manage it because we know their placement will come to an end.” (P15, VSO Kampala)
Expectations23“the challenges one is that sometimes their [volunteers’] expectations could be so high… then when they come on the ground and they don’t find it that we have, that we can provide such expectations to them.” (P12, VSO Gulu)
24“Most of the volunteers come with a lot of excitement and to do a good job. So matching expectations with the reality can sometimes cause conflict.” (P16, VSO Kampala)
Mistrust of the volunteers25“the attitude [of local partners] has been of kind of scepticism, ‘what are these people really coming to do? Are they spies or are they coming to actually do work? Or are they here to get information to share?’” (P16, VSO Kampala)
Change in work ethic26“When they [volunteers] are available, they do the work and ours [local healthcare providers]… see one of them hard working, they tend to relax a bit….” (P14, PM, GRRH)
  • GRRH, Gulu Regional Referral Hospital; PM, programme manager; VSO, Voluntary Service Overseas.