One of the most rewarding aspects of becoming a healthcare professional is volunteering. Healthcare professionals have opportunities to assist in tragedies and disasters, go abroad to serve poorer populations, or help low-income people at home. Lending your skills to those most vulnerable and assisting in dire situations where you’re needed most is often a highlight of a healthcare career, but that usually happens after you become a nurse or OTA.
However, healthcare students also have options for lending their skills where they’re most needed. Here are a few opportunities for volunteering while you’re still in school.
Related resource: 5 Volunteer Ideas for Aspiring Occupational Therapy Assistants
The image of a globe-trotting doctor or nurse helping underserved populations in distant locales is a powerful one, and plenty of healthcare professionals are inspired by visions of bringing care to the far reaches of the globe. Doctors Without Borders is probably the example that immediately comes to mind of healthcare professionals bringing care worldwide.
Fortunately, several programs offer opportunities abroad for nursing students. The kind of work you can do abroad is as varied and wide as the field of nursing itself. Public health and health education are certainly common, but if you have a specialty such as optometry or pediatrics that you want to explore, you likely can. What’s more, the range of places you can work is immense.
Working abroad also means you can be assigned to a large hospital, a small clinic, a school, an assisted living facility, or some other place in need of your work. Your time abroad might even introduce you to areas of healthcare that you didn’t know you were interested it. You could end up working on a public hygiene campaign in a developing country and decide you want to use those same skills in the States.
When you get back, you’ll be a better student and eventually a better nurse because of what you saw, did, and learned during your time away. That experience will stay with you for the rest of your career and life.
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If you’re not interested in flying to Tanzania or Sumatra, plenty of volunteer opportunities exist closer to home. Draper, Provo, and Salt Lake City all offer a variety of volunteer opportunities in Utah.
If you’re looking to flex your caregiving muscles before graduation, you could volunteer in a senior center or work with children. Coaching youth sports might not seem very much like nursing on the surface, but it will help you develop the on-your-feet, high-energy attitude you’ll need for your shifts. If you want to hone your administrative skills, you could volunteer with the library system or the election board. Animal shelters are an option too. Providing care and attention to dogs and cats isn’t all that similar to what nurses do, but it can be rewarding.
Regardless of what you choose, take the opportunity to turn it into a resume builder. Note the skills you’ve gained and the experiences you’ve had, and perhaps get a letter of recommendation from the volunteer coordinator. Anything to help you get that future healthcare job!
Related resource: How to Balance Nursing School With Work and Family Life
Disasters are probably the single most dramatic opportunity for any healthcare worker. When earthquakes, hurricanes, or tsunamis hit, that’s when workers and volunteers have to scramble to make sure the affected population is adequately cared for.
The American Red Cross offers classes and volunteer opportunities to prepare nursing students for disaster relief. Even if you don’t get to actually work on a real disaster situation, it will prep you for a future moment when calamity hits your community and suddenly every healthcare provider has to spring into action. Hopefully those are skills you’ll never actually have to use, but when the worst happens, you can be among those most prepared for it.