In 2013, one in four adults volunteered through an organization. Volunteering is an important element that is present in a strong community. As nurses, we have the opportunity to provide valuable services and information that will make our own communities stronger and better.
The top volunteer activities include fundraising, collecting, preparing and serving food, providing transportation and labor, tutoring and teaching youth, mentoring youth and providing professional expertise.
Nursing expertise gives us an edge in the areas of teaching, mentoring and providing professional expertise. There are opportunities to do these things in all communities, and it doesn’t have to be as formal as we often assume when we think of volunteering. There are formal opportunities, of course, through organizations like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, but one may also find occasions to be helpful and give back on a more informal level, and outside the usual avenues available for volunteering.
If you work in a teaching hospital, you might have the opportunity to mentor or precept a new nurse or nursing student. If you are fortunate enough to remember a nurse who did the same for you (shout out to Olive and Hemani at Grady Memorial) you know how valuable mentorship is. It is a gift to help a new nurse find her way in a daunting career, and help shape a person who will in turn, be able to provide comfort and care to countless others.
Going the extra mile in your job is also a form of volunteering. For example, say you are discharging a patient who is going home with a complex medication regimen. Making sure that the caregiver is present during the discharge teaching, actually doing the discharge teaching thoroughly, and listening to and answering questions is a huge community service. Giving a patient confidence to understand and follow their instructions benefits everyone in the long run.
Another way that nurses provide community service is by answering the questions and providing input to friends and neighbors who are not in the medical field. You may not get a certificate or a gold pin for the many hours you spend saving people trips to the emergency room, and explaining which symptoms require immediate care, but be in no doubt that this too, is community service.
In my neighborhood, we have a wonderful organization which helps provide food, shelter, medical, dental and housing services to our community. There is a high need for people to volunteer in the medical clinic, and so you can sign up to work as often as you like. Churches often are looking for people to provide teaching, support and care to community members.
We have a duty to provide good nursing care while at work, but nurses, as caregivers, often find much joy and reward in going above and beyond both during and outside of our work hours.