In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, I’ve been thinking a great deal about nurse volunteerism, and in celebration of Labor Day, I published a blog post concerning the important of volunteerism to both personal growth and professional growth and satisfaction.
Volunteerism is important as a resume builder, career development tool, and networking opportunity. Having said that, it also serves other purposes, including community service, contributing to society, connecting meaningfully with others, and feeling the satisfaction of giving back as both an individual and a professional.
About nurses and disaster response, I wrote:
Nurses have been part of disaster relief since the notion began. Clara Barton, nurse extraordinaire, formed the American Red Cross in 1881. While President Rutherford Hayes dragged his feet vis-a-vis allowing the United States to join the International Red Cross, Barton took it upon herself to found the American Red Cross, and as its first President she dedicated its mission to disaster response as well as war relief.
Over the many decades, innumerable nurses have volunteered with Doctors Without Borders, as well as smaller organizations like Global Outreach Doctors. (Andrew Lustig, the head of Global Outreach Doctors, has appeared as a guest on RNFM Radio to discuss his organization’s amazing work in some of the most dangerous places on earth.)
When disaster strikes around the world, nurses snap into action. Some may respond within the walls of their place of employment (like Houston nurses working in flooded hospitals and nursing homes), while others may jump in their cars or on airplanes to meet disaster head on in far-flung locations. Whatever the scenario, we know beyond the shadow of a doubt that nurses always appear when and where they’re needed most.
In terms of day-to-day volunteerism, I listed the following as a smattering of examples of how nurses contribute informally as “volunteers”:
- Staffing first aid stations at races and other events
- Joining the Medical Reserve Corps and other organizations
- Participating in local , regional, and national disaster drills and emergency preparedness exercises
- Volunteering for hospices and other facilities
- Sitting on the boards of directors of non-profits
- Volunteering for nursing and healthcare organization activities
- Contributing nursing skills at soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and for street outreach and other services
- And more activities than we can readily name
Careers are also important when it comes to the benefits of volunteerism:
The career value of volunteerism goes far beyond resume enhancement; nurses who volunteer derive satisfaction and personal fulfillment from giving back and serving others, as well as the opportunity to meet and bond with other volunteers of similar mind and motivation.
Nurse volunteerism can be the building block of a personal and professional network, as well as an example of a nurse’s dedication to community and society. Some employers highly value such characteristics in potential employees.
Finally, you need to truly do it for yourself:
While building a resume or being a more attractive job or school candidate are reasonable purposes for volunteering, I urge nurses to use volunteer opportunities as tools for personal growth and fulfillment. Volunteerism is laudable and noble, and it behooves us to allow our volunteer efforts to build our character, bring us satisfaction, and broaden the reach and depth and width of our nursing career and lives.
The potential for personal and professional growth is a powerful antidote to professional boredom, career disenchantment, and nursing ennui. Volunteering — no matter the cause or organization — can be a key to a more meaningful life inside and outside of one’s nursing career and identity.
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Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind NurseKeith.com and the well-known blog, Digital Doorway.
Keith is co-host of RNFMRadio.com, a wildly popular nursing podcast; he also hosts The Nurse Keith Show, his own podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. Keith was previously the resident nursing career expert at Nurse.com.
A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of “Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century.”
He has also contributed chapters to a number of books related to the nursing profession, and has written for Nurse.org, Nurse.com, MultiViews News Service, LPNtoBSNOnline, StaffGarden, Working Nurse Magazine, and other online platforms.
Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, online nurse personality, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known successful nurse entrepreneur.