Building surgical capacity in low-resource countries: a qualitative analysis of task shifting from surgeon volunteers’ perspectives


Annals of Plastic Surgery


Scott Corlew

Date Published: January 2014
Training and capacity building

Introduction: Surgical volunteer organizations (SVOs) focus considerable resources on addressing the backlog of cases in low-resource countries. This model of service may perpetuate dependency. Efforts should focus on models that establish independence in providing surgical care. Independence could be achieved through surgical capacity building. However, there has been scant discussion in literature on SVO involvement in surgical capacity building.

Methods: Using qualitative methods, we evaluated the perspectives of surgeons with extensive volunteer experience in low-resource countries. We collected data through in-depth interviews that centered on SVOs using task shifting as a tool for surgical capacity building.

Results: Some of the key themes from our analysis include the ethical ramifications of task shifting, the challenges of addressing technical and clinical education in capacity building for low-resource settings, and the allocation of limited volunteer resources toward surgical capacity building.

Conclusion: These themes will be the foundation of subsequent studies that will focus on other stakeholders in surgical capacity building including host communities and SVO administrators.