1. Satusky, Mary Jo BSN, RN, ONC, CCRC
  2. NAON President, 2011-2012

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As I write my last President's Message, thinking about my years of service to NAON, I want to explore why nurses, indeed anyone, volunteer time and talent to a common cause. What are the driving forces, and what benefits are there to professionals who volunteer? Read on for some pretty substantial reasons to volunteer, of course, with NAON!

Mary Jo Satusky, BSN... - Click to enlarge in new windowMary Jo Satusky, BSN, RN, ONC, CCRC President, 2011-2012

Volunteering has long been a common ethic in the United States. Each year, people give their time and talents without any expectation of compensation. Although these volunteer activities may be performed with the intention of helping others, there is also a common wisdom that those who give of themselves also receive. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, Office of Research and Policy Development, over the past two decades, there has been a growing body of research that indicates that volunteering provides individual health benefits in addition to social benefits. This research has established a strong relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer. Some of these findings also indicate that those who devote a "considerable" amount of time to volunteer activities, about 100 hr per year, are most likely to exhibit positive health outcomes (Grimm, Spring, & Dietz, 2007).


An individual's social connections, typically measured by the number of social roles that an individual has, can provide meaning and purpose to his or her life, while protecting him or her from isolation in difficult periods. Volunteering also provides individuals with a sense of purpose and life satisfaction. It gives a personal sense of accomplishment and contributes to lower rates of depression for individuals aged 65 years and older.


Good news for our younger members to volunteer: the evidence indicates that those who volunteer at an earlier stage are less likely to suffer from ill health later in life and may be introduced into a positive reinforcing cycle of good health and future volunteering. Even when controlling for other factors such as age, health, and gender, research has found that when individuals volunteer, they are more likely to live longer.


So, serving others may increase longevity, lead to greater functional ability later in life, and strengthen one's resilience when dealing with health problems. All good reasons to volunteer with NAON, wouldn't you agree? But wait, there's more!


In her blog, Handley (2011) tells us that volunteering may help your career more than you think. Did you know that volunteer work, such as a position on a NAON committee, could be a key to landing your next job or promotion, particularly if you learn transferable skills? Think about it. Organizing events, such as chapter workshops, requires event planning, time management, and marketing. All these are skills professionals should highlight on their resume, regardless of their field. Don't underestimate the value of volunteer work; the exposure to varied skill sets can make you a more versatile, attractive employee.


I found some tips to help showcase your volunteer experience. First, instead of "volunteer," use a title that better represents the specific duties your volunteer work entailed. The fact that the work you did was unpaid should appear in the job description, but first grab the potential employer's attention with an accurate job title. Describe your volunteer work in terms of achievements. For example, did you supervise a committee of volunteers? That requires a variety of skills, from time management to motivation. Did your volunteer work require you to speak publicly or write press releases, articles, or promotional materials? These skills apply to almost any position, so make sure to draw attention to them.


Integrate volunteer experience into the main body of your resume. Having unpaid experience appear alongside paid experience gives your volunteer work experience the same weight as a paid job and builds a seamless chronological progression of work experience, impressing those prospective employers.


Helping others does matter when it comes to your "day job." Research from Linked In shows that one of five hiring managers in the United States agrees that they have hired a candidate because of volunteer work experience. The most successful people in the world dedicate their efforts to a cause that extends beyond themselves and employers are well aware of this. Volunteering not only provides you the opportunity to showcase your talents and experiences but also allows you to demonstrate compassion and commitment.


You never know who you are going to meet when you volunteer. The majority of career-enhancing opportunities come through relationships, and volunteering exposes you to people you might not have encountered otherwise. Volunteer relationships are particularly beneficial because many of the people you interact with while volunteering are usually driven, conscientious professionals who can be a great referral. Volunteering offers a whole new world of qualified and valuable connections.


It is unbelievable to me that I am writing my final President's Message to you! My year as your President has, quite literally, flown by. As I move to the role of Immediate Past President, I am aware that my time on the Executive Board will soon come to an end. Although this may be a bit bittersweet, I also realize that there are so many ways in which I can serve NAON, and I find I look forward to continuing to be involved. Thank you, fellow members of NAON, for your support this past year!




Grimm R., Spring K., Dietz N (2007). The health benefits of volunteering. A review of recent research. Washington, DC: Corporation for National and Community Service. Retrieved from[Context Link]


Handley M (2011). Volunteering may help your career more than you think. Brazen Life. Retrieved from[Context Link]