For nurses searching for a job or looking to advance their careers, clinical experience is imperative. The right training and education can strengthen a resume and qualify you for a wide range of positions. Volunteering is one way to gain that background, and also helps you develop connections to credible agencies and other professionals that may ultimately set you apart from other applicants.
Also called “Médecins Sans Frontières” (MSF), Doctors Without Borders is a global organization focused on bringing emergency medical help to people most affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, and exclusion from healthcare. MSF is stationed in 70 countries, including South Sudan, Argentina, and Sri Lanka. Nurse duties may include triage, planning mass vaccinations, or running feeding centers. Some may be focused on training local medical staff and practice little direct patient care.
In addition to their list of general requirements— which can be found here — MSF also mandates that nursing volunteers have a degree (RN or NP), a current license, and at least 6 months of clinical practice within the past 2 years. Experience/training in any of the following areas is advantageous:
A Broader View manages a variety of programs, several of which are related to healthcare. This charity is stationed in 23 countries around the world, including Ghana, Honduras, and Guatemala. Several of these sites are open to nursing students who are still in training.
Short-term placements are approximately 1–4 weeks long, while long-term placements last up to 3 months. Volunteers may choose whatever start date works for them. They are also encouraged to fundraise for their trip, since program fees and donations are completely tax deductible. The Broader View staff can help with finding travel insurance, flight planning, and (if necessary) obtaining a visa.
HVO is a nonprofit organization that aims to improve health around the world by donating medical services and educating local communities. Volunteer opportunities vary in length from one week to four months. Necessary qualifications for nursing volunteers may vary by site. HVO manages 80 sites in 26 different countries, including Tanzania, Cambodia, and Bolivia.
Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) has grown since its establishment in 1958, currently maintaining programs in 35 countries including Egypt, Romania, and America. Their goal is to provide long-lasting solutions to health problems through medical training, health education, and humanitarian assistance. Examples of programs implemented in America are disaster relief, Habits for Life (2009–2012), and support for free clinics. The application process involves submitting a resume, cover letter, and credentials; a background check; and an interview.
This database of volunteer opportunities can be filtered by preferred type of nursing, local/national/international level, and length of assignment.
Officially founded in 1909, the Red Cross Nursing Service provides volunteering options for students and certified professionals. Through this group, more than 15,000 paid and volunteer nurses are currently providing direct services, teaching, managing/supervising, and acting in leadership roles in their communities. Nursing students who choose to volunteer with the Red Cross can receive several benefits including practical clinical experience and a student nurse pin for 10 hours of service.
Getting involved in your local Red Cross chapter will give you access to numerous resources including special programs (disaster preparedness, family caregiving training, HIV/AIDS training, etc.), community partnerships, and teaching opportunities. Contact your chapter for more information on what is available in your area.
Your state’s Board of Nursing and/or Nurse Association may run their own volunteer projects or be aware of third-party charities in the area. Contacting these groups can reveal nearby opportunities that might otherwise be difficult to find.
Local Hospitals and Clinics
Local hospitals and clinics frequently have volunteer positions or know of other local options for healthcare volunteers. Getting in touch with the medical centers in your area is a great way to develop a network within your own community.