Volunteering is one of the most fulfilling and satisfying ways you can spend your time. Not only are you giving back to the community and making a positive difference in the world, but volunteering also allows you to gain skills and experience that may benefit your future personal and professional lives.
One of the most popular sectors to volunteer in is healthcare. Indeed, volunteering in healthcare has numerous benefits, from being able to make a visible and positive impact directly, to acquiring experience for later entry into an extremely competitive field.
More now than ever, healthcare volunteers are in high demand. Before you rush to the nearest hospital to fill in a volunteer application, however, there are some serious considerations you should think about before you decide to become a healthcare volunteer.
Healthcare is a highly sensitive and stressful field to work in, and unfortunately, not everyone is suitable to work in. If you’re looking to give back — and you feel confident that you have what it takes — then here are five tips for volunteering in the healthcare industry.
Do Your Research
The first thing you should do before filling out applications to volunteer in any field is research what the work in that field entails and how you want to contribute. There are many ways you can volunteer to make a positive impact in health-related organizations.
For instance, you can work as an assistant in a hospital, a community leader at a retirement home, or a home health aide; New York, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and other major metropolitan areas are quite motivated to accept volunteers. Each volunteer position entails a different set of work and skills required, and you should spend some time reading up on what kind of volunteer work you want to do.
For example, if you think your strongest skills are in communication and empathy, perhaps volunteering in terminal or end-of-life care is your best option. Alternatively, if you prefer to work with numbers and administration, working as an administrative assistant may be better suited for you. Take the time to find where your particular set of skills will have the greatest impact.
Be Prepared to Deal With Trauma
Of course, volunteering in healthcare isn’t always going to be sunshine and rainbows. Working in healthcare usually means interacting with patients who are scared, in pain, and who will, on occasion, die. This can obviously be incredibly distressing, and it’s hard to imagine how you will react to that kind of trauma beforehand.
It’s important to be prepared for the reality of what volunteering in healthcare really means. If you feel like you aren’t suited to that type of situation, there are other volunteer opportunities available away from directly interacting with patients, such as administrative work.
It’s also important to recognize when the mental and emotional toll of working in traumatic and stressful situations is starting to harm your mental health. Don’t be afraid to take time off or seek support if you start to feel overwhelmed or otherwise distressed.
Try to Stay Calm
Working in the field of healthcare is often a very high-paced and stressful environment. However, it’s imperative that as a volunteer you keep a level head and try to remain calm, at least on the outside. If patients see a volunteer freaking out, they’re more likely to panic as well.
Try your best to retain a calm and friendly demeanor, in order to put your patients at ease. If you’re feeling excessively stressed or panicked, you can ask to be excused in order to remove yourself from the situation and go somewhere private to calm down.
Remember to Ask Questions
Communication is imperative in any healthcare profession, especially as a volunteer. Most healthcare volunteers lack formal medicinal training or have not completed their programs yet. Therefore, it’s extremely important that you understand what you’re supposed to be doing.
Asking questions is also a fantastic way to learn more and gain valuable insights and skills from your time volunteering. Just be sure to ask questions only when appropriate, rather than interrupt a healthcare professional while they’re interacting with patients.
Always Follow Instructions
Finally, the most important part of volunteering in a healthcare setting is to always, always, follow instructions to the letter. Working in healthcare, no matter what your role, means that you are holding someone’s life in your hands.
It’s important that you recognize how significant a responsibility that is, and to perform your duties to the letter. While volunteers are typically not given crucial tasks, you’re still performing tasks integral to the smooth application of medical work, so be sure you do what you’re told quickly and efficiently.
While working in healthcare can be intimidating, it’s also incredibly meaningful and fulfilling. It’s important to not be afraid or doubt your abilities. Stay confident in your skills and trust in your supervisor to tell you what needs to get done. The feeling of accomplishment and experience gained afterward are, no doubt, absolutely worth it.