This is an oral history project of nurses who worked for Médecins Sans Frontières in the 1990s and early 2000s which attempts to understand the motivation for humanitarian nursing in the late 20th century and to locate this work in the life story of the nurses interviewed. The aim in recording their histories was to better understand nurses' motivations for engaging in humanitarian work, in particular where no immediate threat of war or invasion is present and in the absence of overt religious or nationalistic motivations. In so doing the analysis offers insights into nursing identity and the place of humanitarianism in nursing practice. Secondary aims were to explore nurses' contribution to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and their experience of being in the field following humanitarian crises of the 1990s and early 2000s.
Seven oral histories were recorded in 2013; each was recorded in a single sitting. Six of these histories are currently included in this archive. Orators/Participants were asked to recount their pathway to becoming a nurse and then subsequently volunteering with MSF; their experience of working for MSF; and their post-MSF life. Beyond these three questions few prompts were offered. A voice centred relational method (The listening guide) was used to aid analysis of the text due to its multilayered and feminist approach to understanding and analysis. The nurses offer a window into the life of a nurse working for MSF and thus some insight into the organisation itself. In addition, the histories include eye witness reports of involvement in humanitarian missions all over the world in the late 20th and early 21st century.
This project did not set out to explore MSF as an organisation in any detail so no attempt has been made, retrospectively, to do so. MSF [also known as 'Doctors without Borders'] is a large, multinational organisation offering medical aid in areas of conflict and natural disaster. Formed in 1971 in France it was created on the "belief that all people have the right to medical care regardless of gender, race, religion, creed or political affiliation, and that the needs of these people outweigh respect for national boundaries" (msf.org.uk). There are now regional offices all over the world, operating in a coordinated but widespread system. MSF UK was opened in the early 1990s, which gave starting date to the period of time explored in the oral history project.