By Nazeera Dawood
As a non-practicing physician and a public health professional in the USA, I realize that there is a lack of compassion and empathy in the health care service system for the end users. The health care industry has become all about making as much money as possible. I feel healthcare volunteering brings the compassion back in the healthcare industry.
Volunteerism is donating one’s time and energy for the benefit of other people in the community as a social responsibility rather than for any financial reward. Donating money to a charity should not be confused as volunteerism. Volunteerism can come in many shapes and forms. It has evolved along with technology. You can volunteer virtually in any settings, from healthcare to online communities.
So how do health care professionals prescribe for hope? Be compassionate. Serving the community should be instilled by parents into their children at a young age, a value that should be taught in health care professionals’ schools to their future doctors, nurses, public health professionals and allied health professionals. There are many charitable hospitals like Gandhigram near you, many orphanages near you, and many senior citizen homes near you; make sure to visit and volunteer in at least one and start building memorable events.
Healthcare professionals have an opportunity to put their hands and minds and, important of all, their hearts at the service of others. There are several health care targeted volunteering agencies, a few of which are: Doctors Without Borders, Health Volunteers Overseas, International Medical Corps, Projects Abroad & AMIGOS International. Volunteering in these agencies gives doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers the opportunity to help people in the way they dreamed of when they were kids and put their skills to use in regions that are in desperate need of their services.
Each one might have their own reasons to volunteer; one of which is a satisfaction from accomplishment. Literature shows that there are many benefits to volunteering; benefits of giving service to others. Volunteers who devote a “considerable” amount of time to volunteer activities (about 100 hours per year) are most likely to exhibit positive health outcomes. Volunteering was found to contribute more to lower mortality rates than high religious involvement or perceived social support. Studies have also shown statistically significant positive relationships between volunteering and lower levels of depression.
At the age of six, I made up my mind to serve the poor, graduated as a medical doctor in India and volunteered in several medical camps. The value that was instilled during my childhood was the importance of giving back to the community. I have volunteered in many medical camps that offered free service to the indigent population and also worked as a community organizer to develop programs and skits to increase the knowledge and awareness of diseases of public health importance to the general public both in India and the USA. Seeing the impact of such activities has reinforced my awareness of the need to use one’s ability to betterment of others which I intend to do throughout the pursuit of my career.
In the words of Mohandas K. Gandhi: The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.