Opportunities to perform community service or be a volunteer seemed limitless in pharmacy school. But in transitioning to new practitioner life, you may have to seek out new ways to engage in community service and volunteerism. Here are a few places to start.
Programs such as the New Practitioner Mentor Program allow you to give back to your college of pharmacy APhA–ASP Chapter by assisting with special chapter activities, such as patient care projects, health fairs, and legislative days. The newly launched APhA New Practitioner Community Health Ambassador Program provides the opportunity to give back to your community by providing education on topics such as preventing prescription drug abuse and misuse, or safe use of dietary supplements. You also get the benefit of enhancing your communication skills and promoting pharmacist–provided patient care services.
If you were a member of an organization in college that has alumni chapters, such as a fraternity or sorority, you can continue serving after graduation. As a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, I continue to volunteer as an advisor for a local college chapter, where I mentor collegiate members and help them develop leadership skills. I also serve on my local alumnae chapter board, and participate in our national Day of Service each year, as well as support our local philanthropy, the Judson Center.
We offer financial assistance or donations for their food pantry, their linen closet, new clothes for children, and filled duffle bags (given to children entering and exiting the program). Volunteer projects have included sponsoring a pizza party, a movie night, adopting a unit for their summer camp, and activities involving specific skills (tutoring, dance programs, etc.).
Many companies and employers offer service opportunities within their communities. My company has a program called Volunteerism Always Pays, where employees can register individual service hours while also raising money for a charitable organization. My fiancé also works for a corporation that encourages volunteerism, and this Thanksgiving, we had the opportunity to volunteer together for our respective organizations that were corporate sponsors for The Magic Johnson Foundation Holiday Hope for Flint. This effort is aimed at supporting distressed Michigan families during the holiday season. We packed boxes of donated food, holiday trimmings, coats, essential living items, and toys, then loaded them up into the families’ cars.
Have you ever noticed those welcome signs with all the logos when driving into a small town? Those logos represent the various civic organizations that are established in that town. Some of the most well-known organizations include Lions Club, Rotary Club, and Kiwanis. Others, such as Junior League, Zonta, and Soroptomists have a specific focus on women’s issues. No matter your interest, you can probably find a civic organization that aligns with your values and connects you with other members of your community.
Many communities have a free clinic that is staffed by volunteer pharmacists, physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals. Without volunteers, these locations cannot keep their doors open to the public. There may be short- or long-term positions available, or even individual last-minute shifts, which may determine whether a patient receives care that day.
On a global level, medical volunteer trips or medical mission trips provide an incredible opportunity to travel to foreign countries and provide medical care for highly underserved areas. Much like free clinics, there are varying program lengths, from 1 to 3 weeks for short-term trips, or 9 to 12 months for long-term commitments with programs, like Doctors Without Borders.
If none of the above apply or are of interest to you, then check out www.volunteermatch.org to search more than 80,000 opportunities and find the perfect cause in your area.