9 Reasons Why We Love Health Volunteers

by Mary Ellen Dingley

Today, we take the time to celebrate our health volunteers! You don’t have to be in the KNOW to know that healthcare volunteers rock, and they are so very important. 

The World Health Organization reports that there is a dire need for health workers because as much as 83 countries do not even have 23 health professionals per 10,000 people! Talk about long wait times! But of course, it’s not just an inconvenience when it’s a life threatening situation, which becomes a particularly perilous situation if there is no health care professional (or services) available for hundreds of miles.

Health volunteers are crucial to many people around the world. Life without quality health care isn’t a life many would sign up for, but have been unfortunately dealt. We are grateful for the health volunteers who are out there and ready to help. What’s not to love about them?!

1. They work hard.

Health volunteers don’t have it easy - they often work long hours, at times with limited resources. But they come to work, and they truly commit! 

Health volunteering doesn’t always appear to have the same fun factor as teaching children and it won’t work your muscles like construction, but the ability to give direct aid to someone who is suffering or uncomfortable is very fulfilling. The hard work is not only worth it, but truly filling a need thanks to each health volunteer’s specialized (and rare!) skills set.

It can’t be easy to face such a great need as just one person, but health volunteers are willing to work through that discomfort. Many health professionals even feel that the experience of international volunteering is vital to their work, as it gives them the exposure to other cultures that they need in a people-focused field.

2. They don’t faint at the sight of blood...

...which is something the rest of us squeamish folk are very grateful for! As much as I may want to help an injured person, I’m not very helpful when I’m sitting down breathing deeply because I’m suddenly dizzy. Health volunteers don’t have that problem, and can be useful to those most in need of care.

Whether it’s a bloody knuckle, a heart transplant, righting a displaced shoulder, or other not-so-pretty problems, the volunteers are ready for it. Thanks health volunteers, for having nerves of steel! Y’all the best.

Nurse figurine

3. They are addressing an important need.

Over 400 million people in the world lack essential health care according to the World Health Organization (for some perspective, that’s almost 100 million more than the current population of the United States). Trained health volunteers are meeting an urgent need by serving that population.

On an individual level, they are changing lives through their work by delivering much needed care. And on a world level, they are helping build better systems to aid future generations. No matter what area of health they are working on, education, public health, research, or direct care, their efforts are vital to millions of people around the world.

Even in areas with strong health and healthcare systems, in times of crisis (such as natural disasters or an influx of refugees), health volunteers become high demand. We need you health volunteers, don’t ever stop volunteering!

4. They are brave enough to put themselves on the “frontlines”.

Health volunteers aren’t afraid to face an epidemic. During the ebola crisis, health care workers volunteered to be on the frontlines to treat victims, even when it may have presented danger to themselves. One doctor even contracted the disease but recovered. Needless to say, health volunteers have rock-solid immune systems.

While most health volunteers aren’t facing anything as dire as an ebola outbreak (and are probably more at risk from catching a cold from a patient than a dangerous-dangerous disease) they’re still there, smiling, kissing boo-boos, and making those in need feel better. Health volunteers are, at times, risking contracting illness for the sake of helping others. That’s super brave. And awesome.

5. They are trained and prepared. 

Health volunteers go through training from professionals (if they aren’t professionals themselves) to be able to help at the highest level of excellence they can. They aren’t just devoting their time to volunteering, they are devoting extra time to make sure they have the skills necessary to succeed in the role.

Of course, it would be dangerous to have someone giving false health information or providing subpar care, so health volunteers work hard to have the best information and capabilities they can. Sometimes this means gaining a certification, sometimes it means a week of day long trainings. Either way, they put in that extra time to be on the top of their game!


6. They pass on their knowledge.

The best health volunteers make sure that they don’t only treat people, but give them the tools to remain healthy by educating them on health tips, diet and hygiene.  They are leaving a sustainable legacy behind, so that the community health as a whole will improve over time.

Whether they work in areas like AIDS prevention, nutrition, or direct care as physicians, they make sure to give information to help others live their best lives. Health volunteers might not leave behind something as tangible as a new school building, but it’s just as important and just as real.

Lives are immediately made better from their direct care, and made better long term through their knowledge. 

7. They persevere in compassion.

It can be easy in the world of volunteering to get what is called “compassion fatigue,” when you feel burnt out by all of the need around you and all of your hard work. Health volunteers are as susceptible to this, if not more so, than other volunteers - because the need is so vast and their work is often in direct contact with those in urgent need. In can be disheartening to spend the day treating dozens of people, knowing there are dozens more still in need. But through taking time to rest, recharge and practicing self-care, health volunteers remain compassionate and ready to help.

8. They got that science on lock.

Health volunteers have to be up on the latest research so they will giving the best care and information. They are in touch with the most cutting edge science out there, through trainings and research and other important doctor-y knowledge-sharing-functions. They utilize new technology, they are up in any new research on nutrition, and unlike me, they don’t forget basic anatomy terms (is it called a gallbladder? Did I make that word up?). Thanks for keeping up with all that science! 

Volunteer nurses

9. They make our world a healthier place! 

Hurrah for health volunteers! Their efforts make the world a healthier place for us all. They are standing in the gap of a vast and huge need for qualified health workers, and they do it through hard work, nerves of steel, bravery and rigorous training. Health volunteers are vital to the fight to make the globe a better place. We couldn’t keep up the fight without them! We applaud their efforts!

If you want to be a health volunteer, check out some of the great health volunteering programs. Make sure you receive the proper training and take part in work that will be sustainable and useful, long term, to the local community. As a health volunteer, you can provide direct care, conduct education sessions or classes in nutrition or hygiene, be an assistant on research projects, or fill the myriad of other needs in the health care systems. Help lessen the need for expensive and inaccessible health workers by joining the frontlines as a medical volunteer abroad.

Read GoAbroad.com’s guide to healthcare volunteering programs for more information on how to get involved. Join the fight to better worldwide healthcare by signing up to volunteer abroad with Child Family Health International, the Atlantis Project, or CrossContinental.