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Student blog: Volunteering with the Red Cross inspired me to become a nurse

“Finding your passion will lead you to finding work that motivates and satisfies you”
– Dr Val Gokenbach

Photo of Student Nurse Dominic Burns

Student Nurse Dominic Burns

I’ve been a volunteer with the Red Cross since high school, after doing some skills sessions over a few weeks as part of personal development. Never did I think though, that signing up to volunteer as an Event First Aider would open up so many opportunities or even lead me into a career in Nursing.

Whenever I’m speaking to people about volunteering, most are generally positive. Of course there will be the odd person who doesn’t understand ‘why anyone would choose to do that and not get paid for it’. For me, volunteering started out as being something that would help fill up my weekends, and let me go to events that I was interested in. Not that I’m saying it doesn’t allow me to do this now, but over time I can see how the experience has helped me change and develop as a person and continues to do so. Not only this, but from the perspective of being a Student Nurse, it has also helped me develop my essential skills which are, undoubtedly, used every day on clinical placement and beyond.  Communication, team-working, decision making, leadership, the list goes on. All of them competencies required to be demonstrated in clinical practice, and all of which I have been able to develop and refine through my volunteer work with the Red Cross.

Over my years of volunteering, it’s safe to say that I was bitten by the bug, and became quite passionate about it all. I wanted to bring this passion for the Red Cross to others, but in a way that would be more inclusive and supportive of those who didn’t fit into the ‘regular student’ role i.e. student nurses, as well as the rest of the student body.

We’re all aware that Universities’ and their Student Unions have lots to offer with regards to clubs and societies. Getting involved with them helps to enhance the university experience, shape views and gives skills required for jobs – unarguably a major attraction for students. What a lot of people may not be so aware of however, is that students studying degrees in Nursing are a group with the lowest engagement rate with clubs and societies at the University of Stirling. Why? After speaking with a lot of Student Nurses, the general consensus is that they don’t have the time to fit in extra-curricular activities or voluntary work due to the demands of the course, including placements. They may not have the time to commit to training schedules due to variations in timetables each week, or conflicting off-duty whilst on the wards. Ultimately they aren’t able to access some of the amazing opportunities that are available, which can help them become better practitioners – through their training and post qualification.

Photo of students learning CPR for babies

Learning CPR for babies

With all this in mind, I set up the Red Cross group at the University, at the end of my first year/beginning of second year. I think it’s safe to say that it did, and continues to, require a lot of effort to keep things running smoothly, but it is definitely worth it. We’ve been recognised by the Student’s Union for what our group has achieved, as well as locally and nationally by the British Red Cross, which speaks as a testament to everyone who is involved.  Student Nurses have been enabled to develop their practical clinical skills, skills in communication and documentation as well as opening up the door for advanced training in Resuscitation Support Management and Trauma Management, free of charge for example. Above all a flexible approach to how people can access training and events has allowed more people to engage and learn, which is the ultimate aim. Personally I feel I’ve developed my own skills even further by leading the group. I have been able to experience, very early on, management of volunteers, working to meet aims and objectives whilst leading a team, even with pressures such as time and financial constraints. I am certain that my experiences in regards to this will be beneficial and help me in my nursing career in the years to come.

Of course there may be some of you who are reading this who have your own passion for something and are bored of reading about me telling you what you can learn with the Red Cross. What I’m trying to say is it’s about getting involved with something that will expand your horizons and develop you as a person, even if you do see it as just a hobby. Maybe you haven’t had the opportunity to pursue what it is you’re interested in. Well, as the saying goes “if opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door”. Get involved in something you are passionate about, you never know where it will lead and what you can achieve because of it.

Dominic Burns
Third Year Student Nurse (Adult Branch), University of Stirling

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