Voluntary activities vary widely. They can be employed in the context of associations, initiatives or charitable institutions and may range (according to Wikipedia) from rescuing shipwrecked people to telephone pastoral care. It is a voluntary, meaning unpaid, activity. Volunteering is not only a satisfying, but also a fulfilling activity in many different fields of life. It is found in civic activities, taking on tasks, responsibilities and practical activities in the interest of the common good and recognized idealistic purposes. Such an activity does not establish an ‘employment’ relationship in the legal sense. The scope differs from country to country and according to the type.
Usually the statistical offices of the individual countries provide data on the situation of voluntary work. Statista, the German federal statistical office, publishes these figures regularly. According to Statista, the number of people in Germany who worked on a voluntary basis from 2017 to 2021, is between 14.9 — 16.2 million people.
Volunteering at health care facilities is rewarding for many reasons. It helps to keep in regular contact with others, which improves well-being for all parties. It keeps the recipients mentally and physically active and often also supports the state of mind of the medical volunteer as well.
For health care students, volunteering is also a great way to learn new skills, gain hands-on experience, and explore ways to turn their passion for helping people into a successful career. Volunteering in healthcare makes a real, tangible difference. In addition, volunteering improves the local and rural community, which has often limited access to medical treatment. Furthermore it will enact positive change through meeting people from all areas of life. Students will often volunteer in local hospitals with minimal resources. This will be not only challenging, but also rewarding at the same time. In a hospital they may acquire new skills, build up a beneficial network and improve their own mental health in the process as well.
Another perspective of voluntary work in the health care sector is given through medical volunteering abroad, in particular within the UK’s National Health Service. Ambulance trusts in the United Kingdom, for example, have a wide volunteer network. It ranges from providing patient transport to being a community responder who supports and reassures patients while an ambulance is on the way.
Last but not least, there is a lot of volunteer work possible in developing countries, assisting local doctors and nurses with treating those who need it most. Whether pre-medical, medical college or high school students, there are programs available for every level of medical training or experience. Medical volunteer programs in a foreign country offer a very good opportunity to experience different healthcare systems, and to compare developing countries with the more developed industrial world. (See Global Health for more details.)
Volunteering in public health is another topic, where the social impact plays a major role in strengthening our society by acting as a bridge between socioeconomic divides. On a local level the organization you become a part of is likely to collaborate with other volunteer organisations and local governments in providing health care services, through social networks. The ‘Johanniter’ (Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe e.V.) and the ‘Malteser’ (Malteser Hilfsdienst e.V.) are voluntary aid societies who have already been working in this context for decades. They are authorized to render assistance to the regular medical services across different sectors of healthcare.
Creating a global culture of volunteering is another approach to voluntary work. A report by the Points of Light Institute states that if volunteers were paid for the services they freely offer, the wages would total between $113 billion and $161 billion dollars a year. Thus the economic impact of voluntary work as a third sector between the market and the public sector is substantial. Worldwide figures for the healthcare sector are also available on a national and a regional basis.
Providing nursing care for elderly clients should not only be isolated to one field, but is best given through a collaborative effort that includes their family, community, and other healthcare teams. Through this, nurses may be able to use the expertise and resources of each team to improve and maintain the quality of life of the elderly.
Experts argue that the voluntary sector is key to health and social care integration, not an optional extra. With the demographic challenges in the near future there is a growing demand not only for voluntary work in the healthcare sector but also for voluntary activities across all areas of life.