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Volunteerism as Therapy

Volunteerism as Therapy – Kristin B., Physical Therapist

 

As with any job, the job of a traveling therapist can be stressful. There are days when I find myself bogged down by documentation, insurance recertifications and productivity standards. These types of things are such a regular part of our daily duties, and yet, I would expect most therapists would name them as their least favorite parts of the job. Even though I am extremely dedicated to my patients, there are days when those other things seem to overshadow all of the good work that I do for them and finding perspective is difficult. It is those days that make me realize how much I need another positive outlet. 

Throughout college and grad school, in my free time I would volunteer. At that time, I thought of volunteerism as a way to experience new ideas and meet new people. I volunteered for women’s shelters, hospitals, therapy clinics, animal shelters, environmental agencies, mentoring children, hospice and charities dedicated to helping people with illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and AIDS. Now, I volunteer as a way to remind myself of what’s important and how much potential each of us has to do good.

Though it gets more difficult every year to maintain my schedule of working, volunteering and spending free time with family and friends, I still try to make it a priority. Currently I am coaching a high school girls swimming and diving team. I leave work (a little early, thanks to my flexible schedule) every weekday and spend two hours with the girls. I get to be a role model and mentor to these young women and the relationship that we have is very special. Each day, I get to give them some small insight into my world as a rehabilitation therapist. I get to tell them harrowing and inspiring stories about my patients. I also get to teach them how to take care of their bodies, stretch and make themselves better athletes by using my own expertise. I know that this activity enriches my life and makes me better at my job.

I would encourage other therapists to try to reach out and add an experience like this to their life. There are so many organizations that are looking for volunteers of any age, level of experience or amount of availability. As a traveler, finding volunteer opportunities may seem difficult, but hospitals, schools and community centers are always easy places to start. Other resources include:

www.serve.gov

www.servicenation.org

www.volunteerguide.org