With student loan payments looming and work schedules demanding of our time, as nurse practitioners, it can be difficult to find the time and energy to give back. But, there are many clinics out there that rely on volunteer providers to care for their patients. Last month, I talked with the Tennessee Charitable Care Network, one such entity that supports community health clinics offering services for low-income and uninsured individuals, as well as underserved populations in the state. Part of the organization’s responsibility is to help identify providers willing to donate their time to such clinics.
Why should you consider getting involved with clinics seeking nurse practitioner volunteers?
1. A Way to Give Back
As nurse practitioners, we’ve worked hard to secure careers that allow us to make a significant income. Our skill set is highly valued, and we enjoy the benefits that follow advancing our education and learning to such a level. Once you’re comfortable in your career, it can be rewarding to give back, to do something to help others outside of your place of employment. If you can squeeze a few extra hours of clinic time into your week, consider using them to give back to those less fortunate by volunteering for a clinic in need of your services.
If you work in a setting much different than a community health center, or with patients that do not fall into an underserved population, volunteering with a facility in this setting gives you valuable professional experience. Even if you already work in the primary care setting, considerations that must be taken when treating underserved populations, are valuable skills for nurse practitioners working in all areas. With a more robust professional skill set, you not only provide care to underserved patients, but also grow your own career leading to future opportunities.
3. An Opportunity to Gain Experience
If you are a new nurse practitioner, or are a nurse practitioner interested in making a transition to the primary care setting, accepting a volunteer position for a period of time is a great way to get some experience under your belt. Many clinics seeking volunteer providers do offer adequate support for new grads, or those less experienced in primary care. Experience leads to greater opportunities in terms of your employment.
4. A Time to Put the Patient First
Many nurse practitioners express frustration that the clinics where they work do not allow them enough time with their patients. Or, perhaps, these clinics place financial goals far ahead of clinical considerations. While clinics that rely on volunteer providers certainly have financial metrics to meet in order to serve their patients, as a volunteer provider, you will be less accountable to meeting these metrics. A decreased focus on the logistics of operating the practice allows you as a nurse practitioner, to spend more time with and focus on your patients, caring for them in a more ideal sense.
If you are interested in offering your services to underserved populations in a community health center, check out the charitable care network, or community health network in your state. These organizations can direct you to clinics seeking nurse practitioner volunteers in your area. The Tennessee Charitable Care Network, for example, has 27 organizational members across the state, and can connect NPs with organizations who might benefit from the generosity of healthcare providers interested in volunteering their time.
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