If you've ever dreamed of being a volunteer nurse in the U.S. or overseas, you have many options to choose from. These choices range from volunteer opportunities where you pay a fee, to those with no fees involved, to those that even pay you a small stipend.
If you're interested in volunteering for disaster relief here in the U.S., consider the American Red Cross. Nurses have served in this organization since 1888, and more than 15,000 nurses remain involved in their program in various capacities, including volunteering for health fairs, military clinics, hospitals and blood collection drives, as well as local disaster action teams. Sometimes a volunteer nurse will teach courses in CPR and first aid, nurse assistant training or operating an automatic emergency defibrillator. This is a traditional volunteer position in which you neither pay nor earn fees.
An abundance of international volunteer agencies exist to match students and professionals with overseas volunteer experience, charging fees to help arrange housing and transportation costs. United Planet is a site through which nurses can choose volunteer assignments lasting from one week up to 52 weeks. Locations include Ghana, Peru, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Tanzania for this particular agency, but you can find assignments in most countries through the various organizations that offer this service. You pay, but you choose your destination and the duration of your stay.
If you're willing to make a long-term commitment, consider the Peace Corps. This organization will take care of your transportation, set up your housing and give you a small stipend to live on at a comparable level to the locals. You even get a bonus over $7,000 to help you reassimilate back home at the end of your contract, but you do have to commit to 27 months within the program. You'll give them your preferences on location, but ultimately the decision is up to the organization as to where they feel your skills will best be utilized.
Doctors Without Borders utilizes plenty of nurses without borders, as well as doctors. They pay their nurses a per diem of approximately $1,500 a month at this time on top of their expenses, but you will have absolutely no say in where you're sent to, and you'll often be going to areas of acute crises. That can mean extreme danger as well — not that there aren't various dangers in any assigned location. But the kind of assignments you'll likely get with this organization tend to be very intense and even volatile situations.
Decide how long of a commitment you want to make and what kind of budget you have, and then explore your options for serving those in dire need around the world or in your own backyard as a volunteer nurse.
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