I write this editorial after spending the weekend teaching CPR to my ski patrol. A participant asked how long I've been an instructor. My answer? “A long time—since I was 18.” A new member then asked how long I've been on ski patrol. “Well...a long time.” I joked that joining ski patrol was part of my wedding vows because my husband is a ski patroller.
Come to think of it, my volunteer work began at age 14 when I became a candy striper in a hospital ED. At 18, I joined a volunteer ambulance squad and certified as an emergency medical technician. To this day, I actively volunteer as a CPR instructor, ski patrol member, and wilderness medicine instructor, among other activities. Yes, I also maintain fulltime employment and carve out time to be this journal's editor-in-chief. Volunteerism suits me—I enjoy the camaraderie and the chance to contribute in a meaningful way.
Volunteer opportunities abound in the community, in professional or service organizations, places of worship, and humanitarian projects both locally and abroad. Serving as a volunteer on boards and commissions, even those that are not healthcare-related, interjects the voice of nursing into dialogue and decision-making. Just as valuable and fulfilling are volunteer activities such as a community garden project, school program, or animal shelter.
Recognizing that most nurses have busy lives, I can still make a sound business case for volunteerism, even if the activity is short-term or very selective. Being a volunteer creates new connections and social networks; deep and lasting friendships frequently form. Volunteering also shifts one's personal focus from the normal day-to-day routine to acquiring diverse skill sets and engaging in new experiences. This shift can often clear the mind, relieve stress, and rejuvenate. Being in a different element can be a wonderful distraction from life's typical worries and concerns.
Volunteer work also builds a sense of perspective that may not be achievable without going through certain lived experiences. Sometimes it opens doors to new or expanded career opportunities or fresh interests. On all counts, it can foster an unmatched level of personal satisfaction through the act of giving back. Some of the most gratifying moments in my life have a link to volunteerism. Though the rewards are not monetary, the benefits can indeed be priceless.
Until next time,
LINDA LASKOWSKI-JONES, MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, CEN, FAWM, FAAN
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, NURSING2018 VICE PRESIDENT: EMERGENCY & TRAUMA SERVICES CHRISTIANA CARE HEALTH SYSTEM, WILMINGTON, DEL.