If you are interested in pursuing volunteer opportunities as a nurse, you should know that there are always plenty of opportunities at home and abroad. The time to volunteer isn’t during an emergency, but before it happens. Nurses will gain access to disaster training and networking opportunities. When deciding to be a volunteer, it’s for nurses to choose a program that meets their work, family and career needs.
Busy, large hospitals are always on the lookout for qualified nurse volunteers. One of the best ways for recent nursing graduates to obtain full-time employment is through volunteering at a local hospital. Volunteer nursing duties are similar to paid nursing duties. Nursing volunteers may check in with patients, perform clerical work and provide basic medical treatments. They often assist with basic nursing tasks, such as assisting patients with hygiene, moving, eating and dressing. They may observe patients, take notes and follow up with other health care professionals. Experienced nurses may perform technical tasks, such as monitoring vital signs or changing dressings. Some volunteer nurses will help admissions with intakes, transfers and discharges.
There are also many volunteer opportunities in small clinics that offer free health services to the poor and the uninsured. These volunteer nurses will assist with assessments of individuals who may be confused or combative. They help with completing health histories, risk assessment and physical evaluations. Under the direction of a licensed nurse or physician, they will implement treatments, administer medications and provide follow-up care. They will actively collaborate with clinical and non-clinical staff to provide quality care and referrals to community resources. Volunteer nurses at community clinics continually educate their clients on how to care for themselves and manage their pain and medical conditions.
The Medical Reserve Corps
The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is designed to bring together health professionals during emergencies. It is an excellent way to expand skills while also helping others. MRC volunteers train with teams, which involves formal coursework and hands-on demonstrations. Continuing education units (CEUs) are available for select programs. Most MRC volunteers help with community outreach programs designed to improve public health through increasing health literacy and reducing health disparities. During an emergency, MRC teams are called upon to be first responders. Most volunteer MRC nurses support public health initiatives, such as free blood pressure screenings, while a handful of emergency care nurses are on call for emergencies.
The Peace Corps
The Peace Corps is a goodwill volunteer program that is run by the U.S. government. Their mission is to provide foreign countries with help through education, leadership and technical assistance. Almost all programs focus on social and economic development. There are different health programs for nurses, such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Seed Global Health (SGH). The Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP) is the primary program for nurses because it focuses on improving clinical education standards and local nursing operations. The GHSP is perfect for nurses because there are many countries that desperately lack qualified health professionals. Program participants serve one-year assignments, but they may extend their service for a second year.
There are many more opportunities for volunteer nurses with programs like the American Red Cross and the National Medical Disaster System. No matter where you choose to serve be sure to take your time and choose an organization that is a good fit for your interests, needs and skill set.