What are the best reasons for a nurse to Volunteer?

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2014 General Social Survey (GSS), volunteering is defined as the “provision of unpaid help willingly undertaken in the form of time, service or skills, to an organisation or group.” Volunteering is also renowned for skill development and is often intended to promote goodness or to improve human quality of life. It has positive benefits for the volunteer as well as for the person or community served. Many volunteers are specifically trained in the areas they work, such as nursing, medicine, education or emergency rescue such as in response to a natural disaster.

Volunteers in Australia are generous with their time, with three in ten people volunteering and providing substantial benefit to their communities. Last summer, thousands of Australians had dropped their ordinary lives to battle the nation’s raging fire crisis, close to 90% of those people on the ground fighting were unpaid volunteers,. The New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) which calls itself “the world’s largest volunteer firefighting organisation” has over 70,000 members all extensively trained and mostly unpaid. Why do people volunteer?”  In 2014, the GSS reported 5.8 million people or 31% of the Australian population aged 15 years and over participated in voluntary work. Over a 12-month period, voluntary work contributed 743 million hours to the community. The ultimate answer to the question? Well, many people agree that they volunteer basically to “give back to the society for a better sense of living to those around you and yourself”  Organisations report that they bring new insights, enhance the image of the organisation, increase efficiencies and volume of operations, and improve effectiveness. Volunteering is an indicator of well-being and also has links to the economic and health status of a nation – benefiting the economy and the health and well-being of volunteers by providing a personal sense of satisfaction and making them happier.

Volunteering gives you a healthy mind and a peaceful attempt towards life. When you start giving a bit of yourself to the community by doing well to as many people as you can, then it automatically gives us a sense of content, pride, identity and accomplishment.

Whether you’re working with a medical centre, aged care facility or hospital, you can feel proud that you’re using your nursing skills on people who really appreciate your care and support. You will find that offering your time to those in need, will provide you with the feel-good benefits of serving your community. No matter which type of nursing degree or certification you hold, you can volunteer. So what do volunteer nurses do?

Volunteering as a nurse is neither a long-standing commitment nor does it require you to spend a huge amount time out from your days. In fact, the more you volunteer, the more you will gain. Volunteer nursing duties are much like paid nursing duties such as visiting with patients, doing administration work or performing basic medical treatments.  When you volunteer as a nurse, you’re providing health care and comfort to people who are in a state of physical weakness and helping someone feel better, is the top benefit of providing your services free of charge. Volunteering not only helps many causes and people; it also gives you a sense of purpose – it makes you feel good to do good. Additionally, it can help you grow your resume and build on your knowledge. There are many more good reasons to incorporate volunteerism into both your personal and professional life. Volunteering can expand your nursing skills and experience, increase your employment opportunities and stay active whilst giving back to the community.

As a student nurse, gaining relevant nursing experience is important as it will help you be more familiar with your future work as a registered nurse. But how can you gain relevant experience? There are actually a couple of ways; studying hard and getting good grades, taking on a nursing or midwifery internship, getting involved in a nursing program or you can volunteer. Volunteering means you won’t get paid for your effort and services; however, this doesn’t mean that you won’t get anything from it. Being a volunteer has lots of benefits; it can bring meaning and purpose to your life, while increasing your self-esteem and well-being. Volunteering can relieve stress and alleviate symptoms of depression and have a positive impact on your community, and improve your relationships.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is gray-simple-rectangle-mind-map.pngVolunteer Nursing Requirements – as with any career or volunteer opportunity, there are requirements for becoming a volunteer nurse. You can contact the organisation of your choice to learn about specifics. Generally, you will find the same types of requirements such as a certificate or degree or recent direct patient care experience. Volunteer nurses are needed in hospitals, nursing facilities, and other places where healthcare professionals are needed. Whether you’re looking to continue building your skills in a particular specialisation or simply would like to give back to your community, a variety of volunteer opportunities exist for accredited nurses. The best place to start your search is through local volunteer job boards and community organisations like Australian Red Cross.

Resume Building – you probably don’t want to volunteer if your only motivation is to build your nursing resume. But if there’s a cause you care about, there’s nothing like volunteerism for demonstrating something about your interests, passions, personality and community engagement to potential employers. When managers recruit, they value the fact that an employer has volunteered for a certain stint and having a section dedicated to volunteerism or community service shows something important about who you are.  For new graduates or nurses very early in their careers, volunteer positions can help to strengthen a resume, especially if the you doesn’t have previous professional experiences to share.

Networking – volunteering can be one of the best ways to network for a job. Volunteering in nursing can be a great thing to do, as it lets you help a healthcare facility or community, and build contacts in healthcare field. It can also be a great place to meet new people with similar interests or backgrounds. Meeting people while working together can be good because you are able to form a bond from your shared volunteer experiences.  It is also a great way to stay engaged in the healthcare industry and a way to gain recognition. Volunteering can give you some much-needed confidence, and it will give you something to talk about in interviews and applications; something that demonstrates your qualifications. As a nurse, you want to be consistently building your professional network, so volunteering for causes you care about can put you in touch with people who may know of an opening that you may be interested in and provide a recommendation.  You never know where such relationships may lead.

Volunteering in Aged Care – there are aged care facilities that need help when it comes to providing care to their residents, and rely on volunteers to interact with their residents. Student Nurses can help provide support services to residential clients with the aim to enhance their quality of life. However, since you’re still a nursing student, your tasks will be limited to assist and interact with residents and community members one on one, assist in leisure activities and outings, offer emotional support and assist with resident’s mobility in walks, using gym equipment and following specialist programs. Whether it’s offering companionship and support, a cup of tea or a book, you need to have excellent communication skills, enjoy working as a member of a team, follow instructions and make the experience exceptional for the residents.

Volunteering in Community Health Events – volunteers can support older people to remain independent in their own homes and connected to their communities. You might make a phone call to an older person to check that they’re ok, or visit someone to provide friendship and support or drive them to an essential medical appointment.  Undeniably, helping out with even the smallest tasks can make a real difference to the lives of people and organisations in need. You can also reach out to your local government and ask if they are planning on doing health fairs that provide services such as health screenings. Volunteering for those events can help you brush up your practical nursing skills. St John offers a diverse range of experiences to registered nurses, paramedics, doctors and emergency services professionals. Volunteer Healthcare Professionals play an important role within St John Ambulance and its delivery of quality care to the community at major events as well as in the event of an emergency or disaster. Health Care Professionals are able to work across a variety of clinical environments according to their level of qualification, and are guided by the St John Ambulance scope of practice and clinical practice guidelines.

Local hospital – if you want to get a feel of what it’s like to work in a hospital, then look for volunteer opportunities at your local hospital. Although you won’t be taking vital signs or giving patients their medications, the experience you’ll get from working as a volunteer student nurse can help you gain insight into what it’s like to work in a certain nursing specialty. For example, if you are thinking of becoming a paediatric nurse, you can volunteer to work in the paediatric ward.

Volunteering Abroad – many organisations offer opportunities to volunteer abroad. Nursing students, as well as accredited nurses can find programs that suit their skill level and interests. These programs offer a lot of advantages, especially if you would like to combine your training and resume building with a bit of travel. They also provide a new perspective, so you will learn a lot about other cultures and different practices in the medical field.

A volunteer for life – no matter what you do, always keep in mind that you should volunteer for something that you have a passion for, as it will keep you satisfied and you will love doing it. For some nurses, it could be hard for them to find the right time to volunteer. Even so, once you have given it a go, most are likely to do it again in the future.

Volunteering and COVID-19 – the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation and the Australian Government is responding to this health crisis on a daily basis. Australians have a lot to offer when it comes to public health expertise. We can play a significant role in the global effort to reduce the risk of global infectious disease outbreaks. Volunteers may look to organisations to provide support and guidance during COVID-19. It is important that organisations respond by helping volunteers to stay connected, even if the organisation has changed its operations, or stopped operating. You can help volunteers stay connected by: encouraging volunteers within an organisation to support and check in with one another, providing advice to volunteers about how to move their volunteering efforts online, organising regular team chats or virtual meetings to help volunteers stay engaged and connected with the organisation.

Can people continue to volunteer during COVID-19? On June 12, the NSW Minister for Health announced a further easing of restrictions on gatherings and movement. As a result, there are no restrictions on volunteering for a charity or community organisation. Even though the restriction has been lifted it is critical for organisations to continue to manage the risk of exposure to staff and volunteers during this time.  Organisations and staff must observe physical distancing requirements and provide clear instructions about following good hygiene practices. Personal protective equipment is advisable where possible.

The following organisations: NSW Meals on Wheels, Food Bank, St Vincent de Paul, Red Cross and Salvation Army have expressed the need for more volunteers. 

If you want to volunteer but don’t want to limit yourself to nursing duties, you can always work for a different area in the hospital, aged care facility or organisation. You can work in a gift shop, deliver books to residents or visit children in the pediatric units. Just because you’re a nurse doesn’t mean you have to volunteer with those particular skills.

Now that you know more about being a nursing volunteer, get out there and get involved. You will meet new people, use your hard-earned skills and emotionally and spiritually benefit from your work. By volunteering as a nurse, no matter how big or small, you can change a person’s life for the better.


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