Sustainability Assessment of a Short-Term International Medical Mission

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Abstract

Background:

Few studies have analyzed the tangible impact of global, philanthropic medical missions. We used qualitative methods to analyze the work of one such mission, Operation Walk Boston, which has made yearly trips to a Dominican Republic hospital since 2008.

Methods:

We interviewed twenty-one American and Dominican participants of the Operation Walk Boston team to investigate how the program led to changes at the host Dominican hospital and how the experience caused both mission protocols and U.S. practices to change. Transcripts were analyzed with the use of content analysis.

Results:

Participants noted that Operation Walk Boston’s technical knowledge transfer and managerial examples led to sustainable changes at the Dominican hospital. Additionally, participants observed an evolution in nursing culture, as the program inspired greater independence in decision-making. Participants also identified barriers such as language and organizational hierarchy that may limit bidirectional knowledge transfer. U.S. participants noted that their practices at home changed as a result of better appreciation for different providers’ roles and for managing cost in a resource-constrained environment.

Conclusions:

Operation Walk Boston catalyzed sustainable changes in the Dominican hospital. Cultural norms and organizational structure are important determinants of program sustainability.

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