Beyond doctors and nurses: 8 kinds of professionals needed for Ebola response

A hotel employee holds up an Ebola information pamphlet he received during a training in Guinea. Photo by: CDC Global / CC BY

The Ebola epidemic has commanded the world’s attention, with over 13,000 reported cases in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization’s latest report as of Nov. 7. Global health organizations have been quick to respond, and have rapidly deployed resources to the heart of the crisis in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Health care workers with the experience and willingness to lend a hand have made international headlines for their work, but also for their bravery as several doctors and nurses have fallen ill to the virus. Others returning from work in affected countries are subjected to quarantine and strict oversight by their home countries upon their return.

The stigma these workers, both local and international, face from their communities is making the human resource challenge of staffing the response even more of an overwhelming task. To keep up with the hiring demands related to the epidemic, global health organizations have prioritized recruitment — in some cases tripling their human resource staff devoted to the cause, as International Medical Corps has done to fill the approximately 300 open positions as a result of the outbreak.

Read: Ebola: An HR, recruitment worst case scenario

Physicians and nurses with clinical experience, particularly working with patients with viral hemorrhagic fevers and with knowledge of infection control and safety practices, are in high demand. But they aren’t the only ones being called to work on the ground, and there are a wide variety of professionals and skills necessary to manage and contain the disease.

Here are eight other kinds of positions needed in the Ebola response now:

1. Logisticians

A critical component to fighting the Ebola outbreak is ensuring the proper medical equipment and supplies, like personal protective and laboratory equipment, is getting where it’s needed. Logistics experts who can manage inventory and local and international procurement are needed to ensure the right supplies are in the right hands.

Many clinics and isolation units are being set up in remote locations with little to no communications systems in place. Logisticians with experience setting up satellite or radio communications systems are also needed with multiple organizations like UNICEF and WHO.

2. Finance managers

As with any heavily funded development project, finance managers are needed to manage budgets and ensure dollars are being spent appropriately and according to government or donor regulations. Experience managing sub-grants and sub-awards is preferred for many of these positions since many organizations are partnering with local or other international groups to respond to the crisis. While these positions may not put you in direct contact with Ebola patients, the positions are typically located on the ground working closely with the people and organizations that are. So organizations are looking for finance experts who have some experience working in a crisis situation.

3. Communications experts

Communications is a vital tool to preventing the spread of Ebola. Humanitarian response organizations are using traditional social and behavior change communication messaging as well as radio and mobile to actively engage with at-risk communities. Professionals with experience in crisis communications, behavior change communications and experience working at the community level will find opportunities to contribute.  

It isn’t just external communications with which organizations need assistance. To coordinate large bodies like the many United Nations agencies and their various departments, there is a role for internal communications experts to manage knowledge sharing, coordinate memos, protocols and procedures and update the various stakeholders clearly and efficiently.

4. Psychosocial experts

While the physical toll Ebola takes on its patients is undeniable, the emotional and mental anguish it can cause its victims and caregivers to experience is also an important component to consider. Mental health care workers are needed to help reduce stigma among Ebola-affected people and their health care providers, and to provide psychosocial and mental health support to patients and their families as well as health workers.

5. Project management and administration

Strong project managers and administrators are needed to help manage the various activities a particular organization may be engaged in. These positions do not necessarily require a background in public health, but rather experience managing the logistical, human resource and administrative side of an aid project.

Most employers will seek experience managing projects with specific donors or organizations with whom they work and will want to see proven experience working in high pressure environments such as post-disaster or conflict experience.

6. Water and sanitation

Experts are in high demand to assess and monitor the state of water, sanitation and hygiene in Ebola health care facilities and communities susceptible to the disease. Experts with experience in drinking water safety, safe sanitation and waste and chemical management are wanted to help advise hospitals and local health ministries on best practices and to implement safe waste and water systems.  

7. Nutritionists

With no known cure, part of the treatment protocol for Ebola patients is ensuring adequate nutrition. With many communities ravaged by the disease, access to healthy food and nutrients is limited even to those not suffering from Ebola. Nutritionists with experience working with patients in critical care as well as those with experience working with communities in a post-disaster scenario are needed to develop nutrition plans for persons either directly or indirectly impacted by the disease.

8.  Emergency response managers

Emergency response coordinators are needed to help monitor the evolving emergency situation, develop emergency preparedness plans and procedures and train staff accordingly. While experts do not need public health crisis experience specifically, they should have experience managing telecommunications, security and staff well-being under a crisis scenario.

Interested in lending your expertise to help with the Ebola response? View all current job openings working on the Ebola on the Devex job board and create an alert to be notified of any new opportunities.

If you have a questions about managing your career in global development, please tweet me @DevexCareers. Subscribe to our weekly Doing Good newsletter to receive top international development career and recruitment news.

About the author

  • Kate Warren

    Kate Warren is Executive Vice President and resident talent and careers guru at Devex. With 15 years of global development recruitment experience advising international NGOs, consulting firms, and donor agencies, she has a finger on the pulse of hiring trends across the industry and insider knowledge on what it takes to break in.