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Checklist for Health Care Teams

Planning and Preparing for Mission
United Methodist Health Care Volunteers

This list is prepared in response to many requests for a concise step-by-step guide designed specifically for health care leaders and teams. The list emphasizes the issues, needs, and problems confronting health care teams. It is designed to supplement the excellent "United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Training Manual" (Reference #1 below), which should form the basis for any UMVIM team preparation and planning. Refer to this manual for more detailed information and explanation,and for general principles and recommendations that are as important for healthcare teams as they are for any mission effort (see Team Leader Checklist, UMVIM Training Manual, p. 89-94, in Reference #1 below).

INITIAL PLANNING (one year or more before departure)

  1. Generate initial interest in organizing a health care mission
    1. Make announcements in local churches, contact mission work areas
    2. Place notices and articles in Conference, District, and UMVIM newsletters
    3. Contact area health professionals and other persons who might be interested in participating
    4. Use lists from previous teams, Mission Volunteers Database (contact your UMVIM Jurisdictional Coordinator for information), word of mouth
  2. Gather those interested in participating for an initial planning meeting
    1. Determine what type of health care mission is of interest
    2. Identify potential sites
    3. Have several possibilities and preliminary information about each
    4. Consider the possibility of mixed or combination teams, i.e.medical/dental and construction, specialty teams, institutional-hospital teams
  3. Select a team leader. Some characteristics to consider are
    1. Experience with an UMVIM health care team
    2. UMVIM leadership training, including training specific to health care teams
    3. General leadership qualities as listed in the Training Manual
    4. Some familiarity with expected practice conditions
    5. Ability to work in coordination with team health professionals and other team members
    6. Ability to interact with host community health professionals
    7. Ability to negotiate with host country health officials
  4. The team leader does not have to be a health professional
    1. Must have administrative experience and skills as well as health care team experience
    2. With large teams consider appointing both a medical director and team leader/administrator
  5. Select a site. Consider such factors as
    1. Project on list maintained through Mission Volunteers Office
    2. Demonstrated health care need
    3. Facilities that are in place
    4. Experience of previous teams
    5. Participation of community health professionals
    6. Interest in hosting a team
    7. Capacity for hosting
  6. Recruit and select team members
    1. Select for the professional skills needed to match the needs of the project
    2. Also select for interest and dedication to mission, and compatibility with other team members
    3. Also consider for willingness to accept guidance and mandates of team leaders
    4. Use the Mission Volunteers Database (see #1d above) to locate needed skill persons
    5. Consider including pharmacists, therapists, lab techs, pastors, persons with fix-it skills, record keepers, and non-medical persons. Often 50% of team members are non-medical
    6. Try to include health professionals in training, and students in the health professions
    7. Make sure that the size of the team fits the needs of the project and is within the capacity of the host to accommodate (see below, host site coordinator)
  1. Contact the hosting organization. This is usually the local or regional Methodist Church.
    1. Obtain an official invitation
    2. Finalize the time and duration of the visit
  2. Identify and contact host site coordinator (a very key person)
    1. Go over details about the host facilities
    2. Include practice setting, accommodations, personnel available
    3. Determine what equipment, supplies, and medicines are needed
    4. Find out what needs to be brought by the team and what can be made available or purchased locally
    5. Make initial arrangements for:
      Refrigeration for immunizations and medications
      Methods for sterilization of instruments and supplies
      Source of potable water
      Source of power for lights and electrical equipment
      Local personnel for clinic operation
      Translators familiar with medical terms for each module of the clinic
      Clinic preparation, including exam tables, furniture, instruments
    6. Make arrangements for housing, transportation, and meals
  3. Notify your Conference or Jurisdictional UMVIM & UMF/HCV offices about the project. Include dates, projected size of team, purpose, and other pertinent information.
  4. Check on the insurance coverage provided by your conference or jurisdiction. Strongly consider taking out the accident/accidental death and emergency evacuation policy provided by GBGM. Most teams make this coverage a requirement for participation and many hosts require it. Note: Malpractice or liability claims have never been a problem in any of our mission experiences. In fact there has never been a record of any claim made. GBGM does not provide malpractice insurance coverage.
  5. Plan for team orientation and training
    1. Include general information and training, and training specific for healthcare teams
    2. Include information about the host country and culture
    3. Describe expected practice conditions and disease spectrum likely to been countered
    4. Go over in detail the role that each team member will play in the function of the clinic, but emphasize the need for versatility and flexibility
  6. Verify credentials of health professionals
  7. Determine what documentation is required, and request permission to practice for each health professional
    1. This permission is usually granted through the host country Ministry of Health, with the assistance of the host UMVIM Coordinator
    2. Be sure to start this process well in advance. Approval to practice may take 6 months or more.
    3. Plan to take two copies of all documents with the team
    NOTE: Credentialing is usually required of doctors, and sometimes dentists and nurses. Other health professionals do not usually require credentials.
  8. Compile a list of required medical/dental supplies and equipment
  9. Locate potential sources. Consider donations, gleaning, purchasing from supply agencies
  10. Develop a tentative drug formulary, based on projected needs and team prescribing preferences
  11. Plan for shipment of large equipment or large quantities of supplies at least 6 months in advance. Note: Refer to Getting the Right Stuff, a Users Guide for Obtaining Supplies and Equipment for Health Care Mission (see "Reference #2") for more details about the acquisition process, lists of supply sources, getting through customs and other helpful information.
  12. A preliminary site visit by the team leader may be indicated, in cooperation with local coordinator
    1. Establish relationships with local health professionals
    2. Assess community health needs and public health status
    3. Assess clinic facility and accommodations
    4. Use the Health Needs Assessment and Site Evaluation instruments (see Reference #3 below)
    5. Determine need for equipment, supplies, and medicines
  13. Research medical system of the host country, including regional referral sources, ways to obtain lab and X ray, arrangements for ongoing, chronic care. Also locate potential resources for treatment of team members who may become ill.
  14. Plan for an on-site team meeting and orientation
  15. Consider team meeting with local health professionals, coordinators, church officials
  16. Consider an on site community health assessment (see Reference #3 below)
    1. Public health issues (water, sanitation, immunization status)
    2. Nutritional status
    3. Infant feeding practices
    4. Access to health care
    5. Community health services
  1. Start early. It will always take more time than you think.
  2. Begin packing process
    1. Gather supplies and medicines in one place
    2. Consolidate samples and supplies into bulk units, and label clearly
    3. Distribute supplies and meds into several packs, so that if a piece of luggage is lost or misplaced, you will not lose the entire quantity of a given item.
    4. Old suitcases and duffle bags are very useful, and are sometimes preferred over boxes and cartons. They hold more, are easier to carry, and are less commercial-looking, less likely to arouse the concern of customs officials.
    NOTE: DO NOT TAKE OUTDATED MEDICINE OR SUPPLIES. Do not even consider this possibility, even if you know that they are perfectly us able and safe. Any medicines you take must carry an expiration date at least six months beyond time of entry.
  3. Plan to hand-carry all delicate and or valuable instruments and personal diagnostic equipment with you on the plane. NOTE: Getting your luggage through airports has become much more difficult since the events of Sept. 11. Any equipment or surgical/dental instruments that have any resemblance to weapons, such as scissors, surgical knives, even forceps, will be confiscated. This type of equipment will have to be sent in checked baggage, or shipped in advance.
  4. Maintain communication with hosts. Consider such topics as
    1. Publicity for your visit
    2. Opportunities to meet with local officials, including church officials,and local health professionals
    3. In some countries, fees are already estimated and must be honored by volunteer teams
    4. Make final arrangements for translators, medical record keeping, and local support persons, accommodations and meals
    5. Acute changes in health status and general conditions in community
      NOTE: suggested time line, budget considerations, travel and host arrangements, personal health considerations, including immunizations, and personal preparation are discussed in detail in the Manual for Mission Volunteers. Please refer to this resource for these and other considerations.


  1. Evaluate quality of mission by using evaluation form in p. 109 of "UMVIM Training Manual for MissionVolunteers" (see Reference #1 below)
  2. Consider possible future needs of the site (teams, individual volunteers, continuity of care, financial support)
  3. Consider expanded roles for future teams to the site
    1. Teaching
    2. Community Based Primary Health Care
    3. Other therapeutic interventions
    4. Specialty teams
  4. Refer to p. 34 ("Continuing the Mission") of UMVIM Training Manual.
  1. United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Training Manual, 2005 edition. Obtain through Cokesbury 1-800-672-1789, or Mission Volunteers GBGM, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 1400, New York, NY 10115.
  2. Getting the Right Stuff: a user's guide for obtaining supplies and equipment for health care mission. Available for download on http://healthcarevolunteers.org.
  3. Site Visit/Health Needs Assessment for Health Care Teams.Obtain from UM Heathcare Volunteers, boeroger@cableone.net.
  4. Center for Disease Control (CDC) website, www.cdc.gov/travel/index.
  5. Aroney-Sine, Dr. Christine: Travel Well, revised edition 2005, Monrovia, CA: MARC Publications.
  6. Palmer, Dennis, and Wolf, Catherine. Handbook of Medicine in Developing Countries, Second Edition (Bristol, TN: CMDA, 2002). Paperback $29.95. Palm download available for US$19.95, or US$9.95 if purchased together with paperback. To order, call 1-888-231-2637 or online at http://www.cmdahome.org.
  7. Lamb, Dr. Ron. Portable Mission Dentistry (1999). Available from Dr.Ron Lamb, PO Box 747, Broken Arrow, OK 74013-0747.

Updated 20 February 2008