Volunteering is good for the soul and the people served, and if you’re an underemployed or unemployed nurse it can also be a great way to keep your resume current and skills sharp.
Many schools and community healthcare organizations are feeling the bite of the budget crisis and cutting back. Layoffs mean fewer school nurses and overwhelmed employees at public clinics. If your certifications are up-to-date and you have an interest in working with children or at risk populations, now may be the time to seek out volunteer opportunities.
For volunteering as a school nurse, a National School Nurse certification is useful, but often not required. School nurses provide skilled nursing care and management of the special needs of students as well as medication administration. Routine emergency care is provided for students and staff. Immunization checks and basic health screenings are conducted too. For students with complex medical needs, a school nurse may act as a liaison for the school, home and outside medical providers. School nurses also promote student health and wellness within the school community.
Start by contacting the school district you’re interested working for. Do be aware that in some states the position is handled at the local level through the county health department.
At community health centers
Volunteer RNs can play a vital role in health clinics that provide care to underserved communities. The work in this environment is broad and can take a cradle to grave approach with staff seeing everyone from an asthmatic infant to an elderly person with a multiple diagnosis. Community health clinicians don’t just treat the patients; they also actively educate them — so the ability to communicate effectively to a diverse demographic is a necessary skill.
If you’re keen to work in the wider community, there are numerous websites dedicated to healthcare volunteers run by both independent groups and state and local governments. Organizations such as the Red Cross often work with volunteers. General information can be found at Nurse Together and Healthcare Volunteer.
An RN’s liability, volunteer or otherwise, is determined by the state and/or organization they’re working for. Most facilities do carry insurance that cover all of their staff, which limits liability for care givers, as long as the party is acting within the scope of their responsibilities. In some situations, a nurse may be required to carry personal liability and malpractice insurance that protects them in their practice.
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