In 2018, one in eight Canadians (equivalent to 79% of the population) provided volunteer service, either formally through organizations or informally through family and friends. This reflects how Canadians value and recognize the benefits of doing volunteer work in many aspects of their lives. These benefits include a positive impact on their mental health and better career progression through work experience gained in volunteering.
In this article, we round up the different ways you can volunteer in healthcare, explaining how you can lend your skills to improve the delivery of healthcare. We also explain the requirements for applying for volunteer roles and the timing and setting for volunteering.
Most people may think of hospitals when they hear about healthcare volunteering. While there are indeed a lot of opportunities and learnings when volunteering in hospitals, it’s also good to know that there are other areas in healthcare that you can explore and volunteer in.
Volunteering in the hospital is a great way to connect with other healthcare professionals and gain experience by learning from them firsthand. Positions given to volunteers typically depend on their skills and interests. Here are some specific areas you may engage in as a healthcare volunteer:
People without a medical background but interested in volunteering for hospitals may also do so, as there are tasks in the hospital that don't require medical skills and knowledge, like performing administrative tasks and I.T. support and improving the patient experience by socializing with them through pet therapy, reading books with them, and rounding (i.e., delivering the water or treats to patients).
Volunteering in nursing homes is perfect for those interested in learning more and exploring geriatric care. Retirement homes in Canada offer a lot of opportunities for volunteering, where they involve the volunteers in the delivery of care and support for the elderly.
Here are some of the daily tasks to be expected when volunteering for the elderly:
Clinical trials involve trying out newly discovered and investigational drugs or treatments for humans. Volunteers in clinical trials thus play a vital role in proceeding with the study, and while the outcome of the research is unpredictable (it may be beneficial or produce adverse effects), it’s widely monitored, and the investigators still prioritize the safety of their volunteers. Volunteers may also opt to withdraw from the study at any time.
Crisis lines provide 24/7 support for people who struggle with mental health issues, including suicidal tendencies, depression, and anxiety. Crisis line volunteers of all ages provide non-judgmental support to these people by offering a safe space and a listening ear. Crisis lines often provide guidelines and models to their volunteers and prohibit them from offering any advice or opinion.
Advocacy volunteers are involved in getting the message across to the group they’re volunteering with. It may be a group that supports and pushes for better health education for all, or it may also be a group that pushes for more research and educate people on a certain disease. Some activities of advocacy volunteers include signature gathering and talking to people about their cause.
There are no hard qualifications when applying for volunteer roles, and they welcome volunteers as long as they have passion and sincere dedication to service. It’s also up to you on how much time you’re willing to spend volunteering.
Hospitals or healthcare organizations may require you to submit an application form, create and complete a profile on their website, or undergo a short interview. Some may also request the submission of additional requirements to ensure the safety of their patients, such as criminal checks, complete immunization records, and reading and complying with the hospital’s policy.
Volunteering is especially beneficial for students and professionals who seek career progression, whether they’re looking for acceptance in a university, medical school, or a new job. Here are some reasons why it’s a good idea to volunteer during college or a gap year.
Healthcare volunteering during college is a great way for students with allied health degrees to get firsthand experience on the job they’ll be working on in the future. It’s also a great way to develop the soft skills you’ll need to perform tasks and become successful in your chosen health career.
Volunteering is especially valuable to those aspiring to enter medical school, as it presents them as a well-rounded individual. Volunteering requires commitment and provides on-the-ground experience, which are particularly convincing aspects for the admission committee to consider a student's application.
Approach a faculty member or any career development centre on your university to help you find the right volunteering opportunity for you, or create a profile on the Caring Support platform for more access to volunteering opportunities.
New graduates who have opted to have a gap year may spend their time volunteering in healthcare. They may seize this opportunity to travel while gaining more experience in healthcare and providing a lasting impact in different communities through health services.
Deciding where to volunteer is really a matter of interest and convenience. Here are places and groups you may consider offering your time and talent with:
Volunteers who love working in fast-paced and hectic environments may find volunteering in hospitals ideal. Those who also wish to work in hospitals may also find this a good opportunity to learn more about their future workplace and how it operates. Volunteering in hospitals also provides the advantage of forming connections with and learning from well-established and top industry practitioners.
Clinics offer their services to a smaller number of patients as compared to hospitals. Volunteering in clinics provides the advantage of a more intimate working relationship with the healthcare team and more direct interactions with patients.
Non-profit organizations focused on providing free healthcare, especially for patients from low-income families, rely heavily on donations and the provision of free services by volunteers. Volunteering for these groups helps you be more grounded and more connected with patients from different walks of life.
By volunteering abroad, healthcare students or professionals may appreciate more about healthcare on a global scale. They’ll get to work with different cultures, equipping them with the necessary experience that can help them be culturally sensitive providers of care.
They can also develop new skills as they try to adapt to the location they were assigned to, such as the handling of advanced and sophisticated medical equipment from a well-funded research institution or becoming resourceful and empathetic when working in a low-income setting with a limited budget and resources.
Volunteering in healthcare is an essential aspect of healthcare delivery, as volunteers provide additional manpower and support to the hospital staff at a fraction of the cost. It's also important to note that healthcare is a multifaceted industry, with many areas that can also give you the opportunity to volunteer, such as in nursing homes and clinical trials.
At Caring Support, we help healthcare students and professionals easily access volunteering opportunities that they prefer. Through our comprehensive platform, healthcare students and professionals can browse or be alerted when volunteer positions become available, all while actively adding these volunteer experiences to their Caring Support profile. Further your career with us through volunteering by creating a profile here.
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