Nurse Amanda and Nurse Whitney – Photo Courtesy: Amanda Downing
When you think of volunteer nursing, you probably picture RNs delivering services to poor, disabled patients out of the kindness of their hearts. And while that’s a wonderful image that hearkens back to the reason most people want to become nurses in the first place, it might not seem entirely realistic for you in an economic climate where most people struggle just to get by.
However, there are many practical reasons why nurses volunteer, and for those who are new to the industry, it can be one of the smartest choices available. The nursing shortage you’ve heard about isn’t a myth, but the real deficit comes in the form of higher-paying nurse specialties and nurse educators. It’s estimated that about 40 percent of new RNs will have trouble landing that first job without experience, which is where volunteering can make all the difference.
Red Cross Nurses
Volunteering with the Red Cross is a tried and true tradition for nurses, and opportunities are available in many different capacities and with many different commitment levels. Some Red Cross volunteers teach classes – babysitting, first air, CPR, and disaster preparedness being some of the most in-demand courses. Many more volunteer at blood drives or Veterans Administration and military hospitals.
You can volunteer with the Red Cross before you even become a certified RN, and the experience can help you get a job straight away while your peers may be struggling. The organization also offers many scholarships for current and past volunteers. They can even place you internationally to help with natural disasters and disease outbreaks around the world.
For nurses who are hoping to work overseas, volunteering experience can be the number one fastest way to break in and secure yourself a paid position in the future. Volunteering with charitable organizations like Doctors Without Borders or even the Peace Corps can radically improve your resume. They show you’re willing to embrace change, face tough challenges, and immerse yourself in another culture.
Cultural sensitivity is cited as one of the most major skills nurses need in the modern industry, and honing your skills as an RN in a foreign locale will impress almost every perspective employer. Plus, it’s a good way to test how committed you are to overseas work. Nursing in other countries often pays lower than the United States, and it may be worth it to get the volunteering experience to gain a more competitive edge in the U.S. job market.
Benefits of Volunteering
At most hospitals and medical facilities, volunteers are showered with perks, including free meals, parking, and gym memberships. You may also be able to deduct all costs associated with volunteering from your taxes. Volunteering can help steer you in the direction of a nursing specialty you never considered before and give you important experience in specific areas, especially if you find yourself working with HIV or cancer patients and learning things you may only learn from on-the-job training.
With the outrageous prices of healthcare in America, it can be incredibly rewarding to provide services for patients that otherwise might not have access to them. Volunteering can give you a greater understanding of what it means to be a nurse beyond what you can list on your resume while also helping you get employed.
Are you working as a registered nurse to help people? Then you will enjoy volunteering. It may not make sense for every RN out there, but when you’re looking to build your skill set and acquire the experience that will get you hired, sometimes there are no short cuts. Embracing the humanitarian side of the profession you love can easily turn into something you thank yourself for later.
Brett Harris is a medical blogger. If you’re looking to go back to nursing school but don’t want to spend too much, check out Harris’ blog, Top 10 Cheap Online RN to BSN Degree Programs.