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Why Do Nurses Volunteer?
Why do nurses volunteer? According to Wikipedia, "a volunteer is someone who works for a community or for the benefit of the environment, primarily because they choose to do so.” You likely see that this definition closely matches why you chose nursing in the first place!
What are some reasons to volunteer?
■Using your skills to help others. Nurses often have specialized skills and knowledge that can benefit a wide array of people.
■To keep the resume going. If you lose your job or are just starting out as a nurse, what better way to improve your resume than serving others? If you are a new nurse, a volunteer opportunity offers the "experience" that hiring personnel are looking for.
■A sense of self. I can think of no better feeling of satisfaction than helping others each day.
■To make a positive impact on the community as a whole.
■To demonstrate to your children the importance of giving to others.
My volunteer experience
When I was a brand new RN, I was hired into a part-time paid RN position. It was not a career path that I wanted for myself, but I took the job. I had a great deal of free time and my young son's school was lacking a nurse. So, I became a part-time (volunteer) school nurse. Having a love for children and a desire to work with them, it was a perfect opportunity for me and an appreciated asset to the school. What did I gain? I gained a year of experience as a school nurse and a positive letter of recommendation upon my departure. Daily, I had the sense that I was truly helping individual children, parents, and the community as a whole. The daily laughs were a free perk! One of the greatest benefits was that the year of volunteering was instrumental in my obtaining a position as a school nurse at a private school in Miami, Florida. I loved this job and performed it for 7 years. Without the volunteer experience on my resume, I would have been a much weaker candidate for hire.
What volunteer opportunities are available for nurses?
Although this list does not include all opportunities, here are a few ideas:
■The American Red Cross
■Peace Corps/Missionary Work
■Mentorship to a nursing student
■Homeless Shelter/Food Kitchen
■Teach high school health classes
■Volunteer to teach classes with community help organizations
■(Alcoholic Anonymous, abuse victim groups, YMCAs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4H, etc.)
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Floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, or environmental catastrophes almost seem like foreign occurrences. Think about it, what would it be like working as nurse on a natural disaster? Would you and your colleagues know what to do? Obviously there are training manuals, but when a disaster strikes, would you really know what to do? Let’s be honest, most people including nurses have the perception that an environmental or natural disaster will never happen to them. So what guidelines have facilities set in place? And, do we really know them?
First, what defines a “disaster"? Well, a disaster can be a natural occurrence (i.e. a fire, a hurricane, a tornado, etc.) Or a disaster can be man-made. Consider a terrorist attack or shooting, they are man-made disasters. Essentially, a disaster is defined as, “an event causing widespread destruction.” What makes “disasters” so “disastrous” is the fact that these occurrences can come with days of prior warning or can happen without any warning at all.
What do we do in such an event?
Hospitals in the United States are required to have a plan in place in the event of a disaster - this is mandated by the Joint Commission - and employees are required to complete training as to how to react in such an event. The key question concerning these plans is: “Do they meet the needs of the facility and the community?”
Too often, they do not, and when time is of the essence and the adrenaline has kicked in, how effective are we, as first responders? Hopefully, these guidelines, along with those of the respective institution, will serve to effectively foster “disaster” preparation.
1.Form a Committee: A committee consisting of medical professionals, administration, and security is instrumental in this process. Each department should have an input into the process of disaster prevention. It is essential for us, as nurses, to be involved, and to share the experience with our colleagues.
1.The Campus: The committee could assess the campuses premises. Note that this does not have to solely reflect a hospital - this is applicable to a primary care center, too.
2.Problem Areas: This committee could assess potential problem areas and other concerns that demand attention. For instance, the committee could assess the presence of generators and/or air handlers and wells.
3.Assess the Equipment: Are there adequate supplies? Are the generators up to date and functional?
4.Consult with the Staff: It is also noteworthy to see where the majority of the staff resides. If a disaster strikes is it possible that staff will not be able to come into work? Are there precautions outlined to assure adequate staffing in the event of such an event?
2.Consider the Patient’s Needs: Our patients are complex, indeed. If there is a natural disaster whereby electricity is lost and the generators are exhausted, how will patient care be maintained? These considerations demand attention from all disciplines. Nurses, environmental services, and dietary staff all need to know how to respond so that patient care is not compromised.
3.Considerations outside of the Hospital: Home health agencies also need to have a disaster plan in place. There should be an outline of the location for shelters that provide temporary care. But, the patients acuity also needs to be considered in such an event - agencies need to know how to prioritize care. In this event the critical thinking capabilities of the nurse and her colleagues are imperative.
4.Implement a “Buddy System”: Hospitals or urgent care systems should have agreements with vendors in the event that a catastrophe occurs. These signed agreements affirm that the vendors in the community will network with the hospital to provide necessary supplies.
5.Conduct Practice Drills: Practice drills can be especially helpful in coaching staff of their roles and response efforts.
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Keep It Simple
Guidelines for emergency preparedness should be easily understandable and concise. Checklists are great and it is helpful to practice such an event so that each person knows her job/assigned duties.
Plan for Recovery
No one ever wants to envision a catastrophe but it is crucial to plan before an event ever occurs. Typically this will not be the nurse’s role, but being aware of it is helpful. Pictures, inventories, historical files are crucial when it comes to preparing insurance claims.
Without question, no one (including nurses) wants to envision a disaster. But, preparation and planning are essential. It is an obstacle to find time to educate staff and to develop a workable plan. Nonetheless, staff preparation and training begins at the time of hire.
Preparation is everyone’s responsibility, and the responsibilities are outlined in new-hire competencies and in annual competency certification. Effective planning in disaster nursing will, inevitably, result in better community service and disaster preparation. We, as nurses, are instrumental in this process. The cycle of planning and exercising is constant, but hopefully these guidelines will stress the importance of planning and prevention will reference valuable techniques.