Volunteer opportunities for locum tenens physicians

A sizeable percentage of physicians are altruistic by nature and give of themselves—professionally and personally—in various ways throughout their careers. Locum tenens practitioners are in a unique position to take part in volunteer opportunities because they have such flexible schedules. In this article, we explore how you can volunteer at home, away from home, and even during your locum tenens engagements.

As a physician who is away from home for weeks or months at a time, serving on a community board that meets every fourth Wednesday or being a scout troop leader may not be practical. Instead, seek out one-time and short-term volunteer opportunities in your hometown. Go door-to-door or stuff envelopes on behalf of your favorite political candidate. Volunteer to chaperone (and be in charge of cuts, scrapes, and bug bites) for a youth group's weekend camping trip. Sign up to staff the first aid tent at local charity walk/run/ bike events. All of these activities are great ways to meet new people, stay connected in your community, and do a good turn for others.

The control you have over your schedule also makes it realistic to offer your skills for medical missions or other volunteer work abroad for weeks or even months at a time. Some physicians routinely travel to Third World countries and practice locum tenens primarily as a way to support their volunteer work. If you feel called to Africa, Central America, India, or any number of places in the world where people need medical care, visit the websites of organizations that match doctors with opportunities and find out if volunteering abroad is right for you.

Does your heart open up when you turn on the television and see the plight of people in the wake of a natural disaster?If so, you can help. The American Red Cross is often first on the scene wherever there is a flood, fire, hurricane, tornado, or earthquake. Should you find yourself between locum tenens engagements when disaster strikes, contact your local Red Cross chapter to find out how you can be of service.

You may not have much time to volunteer while you are temporarily en-gaged; but if the local hospital happens to sponsor a health fair or similar community event when you are on location, pitch in if you have the day off. If your spouse or significant other travels with you and enjoys volunteering in the community, look for activities that you both can enjoy. Plan ahead by reading the local newspaper online or contact-ing the Chamber of Commerce to find opportunities with local charities, schools, churches, animal shelters, and senior centers. The hospital's director of public relations may also be a good resource for ideas on where to volunteer.

Some physicians shy away from volunteering for fear that "no good deed goes unpunished." The federal 1997 Volunteer Protection Act and state Good Samaritan laws offer some protection from liability. Check with your state or country medical association for information about what applies in your chosen area.

No matter what your motivation is for doing volunteer work, know that you can put your skills and compassion to good use in many worthwhile ways. If you ever doubt that you have something to offer, remember the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: "Give what you have. To someone else, it may be better than you dare think."

Find a volunteer opportunity

American Academy of Family Physicians: http://www.aafp.org/ (search for "humanitarian")

American College of Physicians: http://www.acponline.org/ (search for "volunteering")

American College of Surgeons: http://www.operationgivingback.facs.org/

American Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/ (search for your local chapter)

Care: http://www.care.org/

Doctors of the World: https://doctorsoftheworld.org/

Doctors Without Borders: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/

Doctors Worldwide: http://www.doctorsworldwide.org/

IVUMed: http://www.ivumed.org/

Mercy Ships: http://www.mercyships.org/

Project Hope: http://www.projecthope.org/

There are many other organizations in need of physician volunteers. Search the Internet and talk with colleagues to find volunteer opportunities aligned with your personal values and professional skills.

Views and opinions expressed herein are those of NALTO and not necessarily those of Advanstar Communications Inc. or LocumLife.

About the Author

Karen Childress is a Colorado-based freelance healthcare writer currently crafting a series of articles on behalf of NALTO.

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