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Talking teamwork at the Red Cross field hospital

*Guest post by Guy Lepage. Guy is a Red Cross communications delegate.

**Photos by Johan Hallberg-Campbell

Teamwork. We all know the concept.

We have all been part of good, maybe even excellent teams.

But, it's the ones where members didn't pull in the same direction - the dysfunctional ones - that people love to talk about. "I remember one time this team was..." starts the conversation around the dinner table.

That's why on the first day I arrived for a week-long training course with the Canadian Red Cross, the importance of team work was one of the first things on the agenda.

The Canadian Red Cross is training new delegates for its Emergency Health Unit, or ERU. It's a mobile field hospital that is sent to disaster areas where local medical services have been destroyed or overwhelmed.

The ERU was deployed to Haiti last year to help deal with the cholera outbreak. Members of the team are now in Chad.

I have been working and living with 33 strangers from across Canada, Nigeria, Haiti and Mexico in a mobile hospital we have built from scratch at a Y Camp north of Toronto.

We don't have showers, eat meals out of a bag and work 18-hour days with very few comforts of home.

The scenarios are based on what happens in disaster zones. As one of two communications officers, I am dealing with a local mayor who feels we are not doing enough, quickly enough. And some reporters who think their deadlines are more important than the disaster itself.

A mass trauma exercise last night featured 27 people involved in a bus accident. They showed up with everything from broken bones to severe traumatic injuries to test our readiness. The injuries were not real but our team’s reaction was.

You get to know people very quickly under these conditions.

We all share one passion - a willingness to help people with the Red Cross moment.

We still have three days to go in this training exercise. This team already falls under the excellent team category.

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