Critical incidents in emergency relief work

The ethos of technical assistance in emergency relief work has emphasised the importance of recruiting people with appropriate professional and technical skills to work under the difficult circumstances of disasters. The authors used the Critical Incident Technique to assess job-related skills that were seen to be crucial for the achievement of the objectives towards which emergency relief personnel were working. Fifteen Irish nurses, working predominantly in refugee camps, identified over 60 different work objectives and 54 distinct job-related skills. It is argued that greater account should be taken of the variety of objectives which motivates such field workers. The job-related skills identified were primarily process- rather than outcome-oriented skills, and the authors hold that a greater emphasis should be placed on the development of fluid as opposed to crystallised skills. The possibilities of using the Critical Incident Technique as a mechanism for feeding back authentic field experience and operationalising effective process skills is discussed.