Volunteering for rewarding benefits
Below are short introductions to a number of different ways to get involved with volunteering, whether related to the profession or not. One form of this that is particularly relevant to being a doctor is to give a little time to championing the profession to potential medical students at local schools.
With so many reasons why working as a doctor can make it feel hard to recommend as a career choice, how refreshing it could be to put a little time into sharing what is great about the job. Mentoring Plus at Manchester University's School of Medicine is an organized approach to identifying potential medical students who wouldn't otherwise get the chance even to consider a medical education.
The potential candidates, nominated by their teachers, are guided through the prospects of medicine in a mentoring relationship. The regular contact with a local doctor gives students a special kind of access to their knowledge and experience.
One of the volunteering doctors, Manchester GP Dr Joanne Prethoroe, finds there are many rewards to taking part and that it "does not require too much time commitment - about one meeting or about one hour a month between September and May, and it can be arranged to mutual convenience".
Dr Prethoroe tells support4doctors.org: "It reminds you of your own enthusiasm for medicine and its varied career options. The enthusiasm of the mentees itself is rewarding. So too is giving the mentees a chance to relate to an adult informally, on an equal basis, rather than as a parent, or a teacher, or doctor."
Dr Tim Alnuamaani, another of the volunteers, says the mentoring-type relationship with students is "very different" from others during the rest of his working week. The consultant psychiatrist for Manchester Mental Health Trust says: "I am able to offer perspectives as a healthcare professional, doctor and psychiatrist in a friendly, informal setting, at the same time offering some guidance on exam preparation".
Dr Alnuamaani adds that he hopes he has contributed more generally, "even if the student decides that they no longer wish to pursue a healthcare career".
More information about Mentoring Plus.
Overseas medical volunteering
Use the Tropical Health and Education Trust to find opportunities to create or support links with healthcare partners in the developing world (use the 'search links' tab to the top-right of the homepage). THET itself also has volunteering opportunities; for example, you can work, from the comfort of your own home if you wish, as a research volunteer to do small projects, "which may vary from research in health policy to diaspora groups". (At THET's 'work for us' page, you will then need to click on their 'volunteer at THET' link on the left-hand side to access information about the research role.)
Voluntary Services Overseas is perhaps the best known organisation for international development volunteering. VSO has a number of posts for doctors. Read our interview with a VSO doctor.
Merlin is a specialist UK charity delivering medical relief overseas. Read the support4doctors.org interview revealing what the work is like.
The other main overseas aid organisations seeking doctors are the British Red Cross, Medicins Sans Frontieres, and RedR.
Professional skills in demand
Whether you're a retired doctor or working part-time, you may have time to give your unique set of professional-level skills to a raft of different causes in any of a variety roles, including trustee or management committee member. The REACH website enables you to register your details and interests to access relevant volunteer opportunities. "REACH volunteers have one important thing in common: they have high-quality managerial, business, technical or professional skills that can be put to work for the benefit of others."
St John Ambulance
If you thought St John Ambulance only attracted laypeople seeking to learn first aid, think again. GPs and emergency care doctors are among those who enjoy volunteering some of their time to the team-working buzz at events ranging from regional agricultural shows to the Wimbledon tennis championships, major flower shows and music festivals.
Search volunteering opportunities
Go to do-it.org.uk to find out what volunteering opportunities, in their database of over a million. Find something to suit your interests, locality and availability.
"TimeBank expertly matches the passions, interests and skills of individuals with opportunities that suit their lifestyles."
Volunteer Match offers resources and information on volunteering as well as a search function.
Whether it is ragwort clearing, laying bridges across streams or even charcoal making that you put a little time into, the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers gives details on what is happening and when with local groups - "What better way to make friends, get some fresh air, exercise and help your local environment?"
HELP FELLOW DOCTORS
The Royal Medical Benevolent Fund, sponsor of this support website, also has two rewarding volunteer roles. Read our brief outlines about being an Area Visitor or Medical Liaison Officer.