You can’t give 100 per cent if you do not look after yourself.
This is a key point Red Cross aid worker Nuran Higgins raised when discussing her recent work in the earthquake-devastated regions of Nepal.
Higgins recently returned from her second assignment in the country, where she co-ordinated the health response with International Red Cross for those affected by the earthquakes.
She organised dozens of medical teams sent from around the world to run a range of field hospitals and health programs across the country; she will return again for her third mission in Nepal on Sunday.
When setting up an aid program across a country that has experienced a disaster such as an earthquake, Higgins said, the first important step is to take a deep breath.
“[For any health professional], our natural human instinct is to react and in this circumstance when you are overwhelmed by noise, by chaos, your natural instinct is to want to react,” she explained. “[But] the first thing I try to do when I arrive in country is to take a deep breath. That allows me to put everything in perspective.”
After that, she said, an aid worker must go through a structured yet adaptive process to determine what needs to be put in place. “The other key part for me is understanding the capacity that exists in country at the time,” Higgins said. “A lot of the time, we come with the assumption that we've got the answers to everything and that's often not the case.”
Through all of this, Higgins stressed, it’s critical that any aid worker look after their own health and wellbeing to ensure they're able to provide the most effective care possible.
She says workers aren’t able to give their 100 per cent without focusing on their own wellbeing, as they are ultimately depleting themselves of the resources needed to do the work.
“If we look at the health service profession, there is a natural instinct to forget about your own humanity." she said. “You need to invest in your own health and wellbeing. It kind of challenges this dichotomy of what you're trained for, or what you believe in terms of your morals and principles … but [if you don't do it], you're actually doing a disservice.”
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