Magazine article American Nurse Today

Boost Your Career with Community Outreach Involvement

Magazine article American Nurse Today

Boost Your Career with Community Outreach Involvement

Article excerpt

Does patient teaching energize you? Could you see yourself leading a hula hoop contest to motivate children to exercise? Do you enjoy working with patients and professionals who appreciate your contributions?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then consider getting involved in community outreach activities your employer supports. Community health nurses offer programs to groups outside the hospital walls to make a positive impact on local citizens' health behaviors and lifestyle choices. Typically, these programs rely on hospital volunteers to meet the demands of fast-paced group events, which may attract many participants and require complex programming. Many events call for just a few hours of volunteers' time, giving them a snapshot of community outreach activities. Volunteer nurses can touch and influence many lives at once and serve as agents for change for their communities. (See Community health initiatives (

Benefits of getting involved

An outreach program offers advantages for both the community and volunteers. The community reaps health benefits from nurses' expertise. For nurse volunteers, outreach allows them to:

* experience a different style of nursing care, which increases their appreciation for community health nursing and can enhance their outlook on the nursing profession

* see firsthand how plans are implemented to influence whole populations

* observe local citizens engaging in positive behaviors to improve their health

* grow by learning new skills

* mingle with people on the "well" side of the health continuum

* form new friendships and connections in and out of the workplace

* be part of an event where they're not the planners but valued helpers, which can bring feelings of satisfaction, enjoyment, and camaraderie.

If you work in a hospital, you may feel you're already giving so much of yourself in your often-hectic job. But being involved in outreach activities can help you slow down and connect with your community beyond hospital walls. It also can benefit your own health and boost your self-esteem. Volunteering may reduce mortality risk, and it gives people a greater sense of self-worth, accomplishment, and pride.

Climbing the career ladder

Many healthcare organizations have career ladders nurses can climb to advance their careers or increase their pay. With most ladders, you need to engage in community service or advance the nursing profession to progress up the ladder; by volunteering, you can accumulate service points on the ladder. Also, many management positions require a certain number of community service hours per year. The time you spend at outreach events can satisfy conditions for either your career ladder or management obligation in a way that reflects and capitalizes on your skill as a healthcare professional. Along the way, you may identify a new career path or skills you want to learn, possibly prompting you to further your education. What's more, many employers value service behaviors, so adding volunteer activity to your resume will highlight your professional ethics and sense of social responsibility.

Generating good will

If your volunteer work supports a community outreach colleague in need of assistance, the fruits of your service may extend beyond your own personal rewards to generate good will between departments. What's more, your hospital can enhance its reputation by employing community-minded staff. …

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