Should You Volunteer to Get a Nursing Job?

The nursing shortage is as bad as ever but hospitals are not hiring due to budget constraints. Even if a few facilities have open positions, they are usually looking for experienced registered nurses. New graduate nurses are increasingly finding it hard to get accepted for nursing jobs and have sadly joined the ranks of the unemployed.

This situation has made those in nursing school paranoid about their job prospects after graduation. If you are one of them, your fears are valid and you may feel that you need to do anything to lessen that anxiety about getting that coveted nursing job.

One of the ways that can help your chances is through volunteering at the hospital while completing your nursing degree. But is it the right strategy?

Volunteering is a great way to get a feel of the hospital environment. It gives you the chance to see firsthand how doctors, nurses and other healthcare employees work in general. You are giving your valuable time in helping out with minor tasks that indirectly benefit patients even if they are as simple as filling out forms, answering calls or delivering food trays. It gives you a perspective that will help you appreciate what is being taught in nursing class.

But will all that help you in getting a nursing job later? Probably.

After all, while volunteering, you are actually networking the whole time right? You can get to know someone who works there who can give you some inside information about job openings. If you’re lucky, you might get an employee referral.

But volunteering is no sure ticket to a nursing job in the hospital. Remember, volunteers are not given big tasks. You will not be allowed to engage in patient care directly. As a volunteer, you will have no responsibility and accountability beyond mundane and simple tasks since you are not an employee. Health staff will appreciate a helping hand, but you also may be seen as a nuisance or a nonentity in the busy hospital floor.

However, don’t let all the weak points of volunteering deter you. Chances are it will help you one way or the other. Just don’t have this pipe dream that it can make your nursing job application much easier.

What usually works these days is to volunteer, and then use that experience to get any paid job in the hospital. Getting employed will give you the real advantage over other applicants to a nursing job later because facilities like to hire internally. Unlike volunteers who tend to get forgotten as soon as they step out of the building, you as an employee will have a more tangible impression on your employers.

Tweak your strategy in nabbing that nursing job in the long-term. Go ahead and volunteer. Then network and try to get a paid position, be it as a receptionist, lab assistant or a medical clerk. Better yet, strive to get hired as a patient care technician (PCT), a certified nursing assistant (CNA), or an emergency medical technician (EMT). These jobs involve direct patient care and will boost your credentials. Employers will recognize your clinical experience and will more likely offer you that RN job after nursing school.

So, if you can’t get an externship or a real paid job, then volunteering is the next best thing. Consider becoming a volunteer at your local hospital, knowing that volunteering will not give any guarantees, but it may provide the inside track on nursing jobs.

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