Volunteering: what should you consider?
Susan lives in a small, rural, community where everyone knows each other. Susan is a registered nurse (RN) working in a long-term care facility. She has been asked by her child’s teacher to volunteer as a parent helper for a one day, grade seven, volleyball tournament that will include student teams from the surrounding communities. Susan understands that at this full day event she would provide first aid, as needed, for the players. This tournament will occur on a Saturday, supervised by the teacher and a few parent volunteers.
In the past, Susan has been asked to help out for different school or sports activities but has been unavailable. This time she is able to volunteer. Susan has questions about volunteering and asks the other RNs she works with but they are unable to help her so Susan contacts a CARNA Policy and Practice Consultant and asks the following questions.
What do I need to know when providing first aid as a volunteer?
The first question Susan should ask herself is: have I been educated in providing first aid and is the education current? Not all nurses know first aid so if she is asked to take on a first aid role and does not have the competence to do this then she should not volunteer.
Regardless of the title of the role she is volunteering for, Susan is held accountable to the practice standards and the code of ethics of an RN. In situations where a client condition is deteriorating, the RN is held accountable to the standard of a reasonable and prudent nurse with the same level of experience in the same situation.
What policies do I follow for this role?
Susan should ask the teacher for a role description, school policies related to this role, as well as, clarify the expectations for this volunteer role. In some situations, depending on the location and the type of volunteer activity, the specific qualifications, role expectations and policies that would guide the RN when deciding to take on this role may be well established i.e. service or sport groups that have an overarching structure such as girl guides, boy scouts, or minor hockey associations etc. In other situations there may be none. Susan should consider the expectations and policies to determine if she is competent for the volunteer role, and if not, how she could acquire the competencies needed.
Do I have liability coverage when volunteering in this role?
Susan should determine the details of liability protection that may be available to her through the organization that she is volunteering with. It is also important for her to contact the Canadian Nurses Protective Society (CNPS) to discuss with them the extent of liability coverage she has and determine if this liability coverage extends to volunteer roles.
Can I report these volunteer hours to CARNA as nursing hours?
Susan cannot report these hours to CARNA as nursing hours.
Volunteer hours while serving with an organization (non-government organizations) where nursing skills are required may be counted. Documentation must indicate the position requires registration and can only count if the member was registered at the time of the practice.
A job description, a letter from the agency and approval for the setting may be required to count volunteer hours as nursing practice hours. Susan finds out that she can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to request review.
Other factors Susan should consider
Susan should determine if she has the knowledge, skill and competence to address whatever assistance or care the volunteer role may require. She should consider the potential incidents that may arise e.g. sporting events may incur sports related injuries; field trips may lead to injuries dependant on the type of field trip; and determine if she has the necessary competence or is able to acquire the competence needed prior to volunteering. Susan needs to be aware that no matter what the situation, once she begins to provide assistance she needs to provide care to the best of her ability and competence until someone else takes over.
Susan needs to identify the back-up available to her. Is there a phone available to contact an ambulance if needed? Is there an ambulance in the community? How far away is the hospital or physician?
Disclaimer: Our case studies are fictional educational resources. While we strive to make the scenarios as realistic as possible, any resemblance to actual people or events is coincidental.