Volunteerism is one of the most gratifying ways nursing students can gain hands-on experience by sharing their knowledge and passion for care with others.
Recent research from the Corporation for National and Community Service shows that volunteers are 27 percent more likely to find employment than non-volunteers1. While volunteerism provides individuals with a potential entry route into an organization where they would like to work, it also yields additional benefits for shaping one’s career path.
Judy Kimchi-Woods, PhD, RN, MBA, CPNP, CPHQ, president of Chamberlain College of Nursing’s Columbus campus, stressed that volunteerism embodies a key trait of nurses, the desire to take time to provide service and care to others.
“Through volunteerism, student nurses can increase their exposure to individuals from diverse populations and backgrounds, sensitizing them to different ways of life and a population that does not have access to healthcare,” she explained. “It also provides an introduction to the needs of patients student nurses will care for once they are working in the field.”
Exposure to Diverse Cultures
Volunteer opportunities that allow students to venture beyond their local community can provide meaningful exposure to culturally diverse populations. For example, students who attend Chamberlain’s International Nursing Service Projects collaborate with teams of registered nurses and doctors to provide care to individuals who have little or no access to healthcare. These students also serve as educators, teaching community members preventative healthcare measures they can take to help ensure their future wellbeing. Such immersion experiences help students gain a deeper understanding of cultural and economic differences, while helping to provide care to others.
Experience to Guide Career Success
Dr. Kimchi-Woods advises student nurses curious about entering a particular specialization to explore related volunteering opportunities. “Volunteering can introduce student nurses to different areas of care and provide a preview of the roles they will eventually play within that setting. For example, a nursing home or hospice setting can be a catalyst for student nurses pursuing a career in geriatric nursing.”
Volunteerism also equips nurses with valuable job skills such as communication with others, a key component of ensuring positive patient outcomes.
Dr. Kimchi-Woods added, “Through volunteering, student nurses can strengthen their communication skills by meeting and working with new people on a regular basis – similar to meeting and providing care for new patients.”
The vast number of volunteer roles may seem overwhelming; however, taking the time to consider specific goals and interests can help student nurses narrow their focus to opportunities that are the best fit for them. Asking the following questions can help achieve this:
- Is there something specific I want to do?
- For example, do I want:
- to meet people who are different from me?
- to experience the type of work I might want as a full-time job?
- to contribute to my community?
- For example, do I want:
- Do I prefer to work with others or as part of a team?
- How much time am I willing to commit?
- What causes are important to me?
- What skills can I bring to my role as a volunteer?
Another great starting point for learning about volunteer opportunities is contacting a non-profit organization, hospital or nursing home of interest to learn more about its needs. Some organizations simply need individuals who can provide companionship for patients, while others may require volunteers to play a more active role in day-to-day responsibilities.
The websites included below can serve as a starting point for nursing students looking to identify a volunteer opportunity that best suits their interests.
- American Red Cross’ Student Nurse Page
- Volunteer Guide
- Volunteer Match
- National Student Nurses Association
Whether nursing students prefer volunteerism opportunities that take them around the world or to a location in need within their own community, one thing is for certain: they will be exposed to an entirely different perspective of nursing, one which will exercise their innate dedication to care for others.
Have you participated in a memorable volunteerism activity that complemented your nursing education? Tell us about your experience.