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Ms. Cathrine Hoel thoughts as a Medical Adviser at a CSDP mission

Working as a Medical Adviser for an EU (European Union) Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) mission is a very different experience from my previous work abroad. First of all, because the tasks are so focused on medical support and care of our own staff only, and secondly because the contracts are usually a yearlong (and extendable).

My name is Catrine Hoel and I am a Swedish Intensive Care Nurse and have worked abroad in several countries and organizations before being seconded by MSB to a CSDP mission. MSB seconded me to CSDP missions in EUCAP Somalia in early 2018, and at the end of 2020 I was seconded to EUPOL COPPS, one of two Palestine based missions.

  • Ms. Cathrine Hoel by her desk
  • At the entrance EUPOL COPPS
  • At the medical office EUPOL COPPS

Despite both being CSDP missions these two missions are very different from each other’s, one living and working in a camp setting with several different office spread out over the country and the other living in my own apartment in a big (tourist) city, one with no/ very limited access to any health care and one with access to one of the world’s best ones.

So, the tasks are different, even when the goal is similar. The goal is to keep our staff, international and national staff, safe and well cared for if they get sick or wounded. This can be from making sure they have the right medical kits and know how to use them and also have access to medical professional, be it within the mission, outside health care facilities or even abroad if needed.

Since I started with EUPOL COPPS a lot of things have changed, in the beginning the position was fairly new and the mission was barely understanding the need of a Medical Adviser (remember, health care is readily available here), however the pandemic brought up a lot of questions and the benefit of having a medical person in the team became evident.

Now the role is established, and is an important part of the Security and Duty of Care Department (SDCD), not only at EUPOL COPPS but also at our sister mission EUBAM Rafah since our department is the first ever SDCD to cover two missions!

During the ongoing war I have had to refocus the work once again, instead of providing training in First Aid and working with preventive care I am now mainly supporting and following up on stress and psychosocial well-being of our staff, as well as advising our (acting) Head of Mission and Line Managers on how to best support their staff whilst performing their duties either in location or when teleworking from abroad. In this situation we are all drawing from experience during COVID-19 pandemic and hoping the situation in our region will be better very soon.

So, at last, what did I bring with me that has been most helpful to perform my duties?

Patience and experience.

Patience with work which may be slow at times; both due to the set ups of CSDP missions but also since the work is supporting ‘only’ and hopefully not needed and; and experience as a lot of time issues brought to my attention needs to be evaluated and distinguished between what needs of urgent attention and medical care and what does not. In my opinion, the role of the Medical Adviser is important in all CSDP missions, not only for medical action/ advise but also as a somewhat outside person, willing and able to listen and act as a bouncing wall for all staff and management.

A place for anyone to let the steam out, find a place to regroup and feel better and knowing we work with medical confidentiality.

Latest reviewed: 29 November 2023

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