Perceptions of Orthopaedic Volunteers and Their Local Hosts in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Are We on the Same Page?

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Objective:Our goal was to compare the perceptions of overseas orthopaedic volunteers and their hosts in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) regarding the role of international volunteerism. We also sought to determine if differences in perception exist between trainee and fully trained orthoapedic surgeon volunteers.Methods:Surveys with similar multiple-choice and open-ended questions were administered to 163 Health Volunteers Overseas orthopaedic volunteers (response rate 45%) and 53 members of the host orthopaedic staff (response rate 40%). Fifty-four volunteers and 20 hosts also contributed open-ended responses. Quantitative responses were analyzed for significance using Mantel–Haenzel χ2 tests. Open-ended responses were coded using thematic analysis.Results:Both the international volunteers and their LMIC hosts agreed that volunteers learned new skills while volunteering. Both groups believed that international volunteerism had a positive overall impact on the local practice, but hosts viewed these benefits more favorably than volunteers did. LMIC staff believed that, besides altruistic reasons, volunteers were also motivated by professional gains, diverging from volunteer responses. In open-ended responses, hosts desired longer term commitments from volunteers and had some concerns regarding volunteers' qualifications. Between volunteer trainees and fully trained surgeons, trainees were more likely to be motivated by personal benefits.Conclusion:Efforts must be made to further align the expectations and goals of volunteers and their hosts in LMICs. Certain measures such as predeparture orientations for volunteers and developing a more longitudinal and bidirectional experience may enhance the impact of orthopaedic volunteerism in LMICs. Further studies are needed to explore the impact of international orthopaedic volunteerism on the host population.

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