My interview with MSF

Today I had my interview with MSF. It went pretty well, I think. I was well prepared, both for the interview and for the multiple choice test they give logisticians. In the interview I got a number of chances to explain how I think my past experiences will help me do the job. Molly asked me how I’d deal with the inevitable problems of close team living, and I had an answer that I think pleased her.

Yesterday, I studied diesel engine failure modes and basics of water systems, and both of those showed up on the test. Many of the questions on the test have some pretty serious problems, and I don’t think MSF-USA takes it terribly seriously. Hope not because I certainly didn’t ace it.

One strange thing is that between the interview and the test she had me watch a 30 minute movie. It was all stuff I knew from reading so much about life as an MSF volunteer, but I suppose it would have answered a lot of questions for me when I first got started researching this stuff.

In a month or so they will tell me if I’ve made it onto their roster of volunteers. At that point, I’ll work with the HR department to find my first posting. Between now and then, I was planning on taking a big long camping trip of some sort. But the weather is just so horrible here in California right now, I’m not taking off tomorrow, and probably not Friday either.

Woofer for hire!

Just in time for my upcoming MSF interview, I’ve finished my WFR (pronounced “woofer”) certification. I don’t know if my interviewer will ask about first aid skills, but I can guarantee you that I’ll find a way to tell her! I’m really proud of this certification, not just because of the skills it gives me in case I need to provide emergency care for a colleague someplace remote, but because it shows I have taken the initiative to continue preparing myself for my chosen career. You wouldn’t think, while working with doctors and nurses, that you’d need to know medicine, but Jon told me a story from his MSF days that made me decide to get the WFR training. He found himself in a situation where he was the best hope half a dozen meningitis patients had to survive the next 24 hours… as he said, “it’s not supposed to work that way, but sometimes it does”.

One of the high points of the course for me was getting to give a 0.3 ml dose of saline via intramuscular injection to a classmate. The point of the exercise was to make sure that if we ever had to inject someone with epinephrine, we wouldn’t shy away from it, possibly costing someone their life. I also want to learn how to run an IV drip, but that’s harder to arrange here in the States, due to liability and such. People only want to teach you stuff like that when you are in a nursing or paramedic course. So perhaps I’ll have to have my colleagues teach me when I get my first posting.

I’ve also finished all my Red Cross paperwork so that they will be able to deploy me the next time there’s a national disaster inside of the United States big enough to justify bringing in volunteers from the Pacific Region. Through amateur radio circles, I’ve made contact with a Red Cross volunteer who’s worked several times for the communications part of Red Cross, so I might get his help to be deployed on one of those teams.

I’m also in the final stages of getting signed up for DMAT CA-6, a federally chartered medical team that FEMA can call up to work in disaster areas. At least I think I am; it’s hard to tell if the interview component, which is yet to happen, is a real “weed-out” step, or if it’s just to make sure I’m not insane. They have a big drill coming the first week of May, so I am trying to get involved with the team before that so that I can at least see the team in operation, and maybe learn on the job some. I am applying to work on that team in a logistical or communication role. I provided an internet connection to a DMAT-like team in Waveland, and they seemed like cool people. I’m guessing the CA-6 folks will be pretty much the same. The kinds of nurses and doctors that volunteer for stuff like that are the cool ones.

In my digital life, I’ve got some programming work to finish up tonight and the rest of this week so I can bill that client. Yay for money! I’m visiting a non-profit up in the city tomorrow to see if I can be helpful to them, but that’s just a volunteer thing. I’ve got a couple proposals for contracting work in process, but they are in the customer’s hands, so no telling when/if they will come through. I’m also committed to delivering a prototype of a search system to a guy at the UN this month; that’s also volunteer work, but the idea is it might turn into a job some day.

As I explained to my Guatemalan teacher, I plant mango stones and see which trees bear fruit.

The good news is that I’ve made enough money this year that I actually need to get around to paying estimated taxes for 2006 by April 15. I already did 2005’s taxes, and ended up paying a little penalty because I never got around to paying my self-employment taxes when I was supposed to.