The phone in the clinic rings from a number you’ve never seen before.
You answer, assuming it’s someone looking to book in for an appointment, and then you hear the same pitch you’ve heard a thousand times:
“Would you be willing to donate your time, or a gift certificate to our charity, or upcoming cause”?
We’ve all had those calls, and usually, the person on the other end has the best of intentions, and it’s usually a good cause.
However, with many requests per year coming in, at what point do you say no, and at what point is volunteering your time worth it?
This is certainly an individual decision that you have to make, but I think there’s value in volunteering your time, especially if you’re new in practice.
Is Volunteering Worth It?
I should preface this by letting you know my bias to this is yes; however, it should be done selectively.
I would not be where I am in my career(s) today if it wasn’t for volunteering, and all the volunteer work I’ve done has lent itself to each of my careers.
For those of you who may be new to this blog, in addition to being an RMT, I’m also a full-time firefighter, so I’m fortunate to have two great careers.
However, I didn’t always have both as a career.
I spent 16 years as a volunteer firefighter before getting hired full-time last year with my present department.
The cool thing is that much of the experience I gained as a volunteer not only helped me get the career job, it’s also been pivotal in my career as an RMT and continues to be.
Back in 2009 when I was still a student, I knew I wanted to be involved in sport as a therapist, so I approached our local Junior A hockey club and had a chat with their head Athletic Therapist to see if I could come in and volunteer some time with them to get some experience as a student.
When I told him my background as a first-aid guy and firefighter, he looked at me and said, “Oh so you’ve seen some stuff!” and then invited me to come and start at the next game.
So, volunteer experience in one area helped me get my foot in the door to another part of my career that still serves me today.
Another thing that happened was back in 2010, our regulatory body came out and put the rule in place that every RMT in British Columbia had to be certified in First Aid to maintain their license.
It was also around that time that my fire chief approached me and wanted me to become one of the First Responder instructors for the department. As a result, I became a Red Cross First Aid instructor and have taught First Aid and First Responder courses to RMT’s and Athletic Therapists all across BC. This makes up a pretty big part of my brand and business today, and I have even been fortunate enough to teach courses to the Vancouver Whitecaps medical staff.
When I look at the seven years I spent with that Junior Hockey team, while it wasn’t a paid position, there were several other ways in which it paid off.
The team chiropractor became a referral source for me in the clinic for the following ten years. In fact, I can remember when I first graduated, there were weeks where half of the people who came to see me were referrals from him.
Many of the staff members would also come to see me, refer friends and family to me, and some still come and see me today.
This volunteer work also helped establish me in the community as a “sports therapy” guy, and many patients over the years came to see me because of that reputation.
During my time with the team, I was fortunate enough also to mentor some Athletic Therapy and Kinesiology students who were getting their practicum hours. Many of those connections are still in place today and have helped me become known as a First Responder instructor in the Athletic Therapy community because of those students.
One student even convinced the clinic he was working at to contact me and hire me to work in their clinic when they were looking for an RMT, and I spent six years working at that clinic.
Funny enough, one of those students went on to be a chiropractor and just recently contacted me wanting to refer some of his patients who were moving to this area.
Once again this volunteer experience lead into more opportunities.
Because of the experience I gained working there, this was my foot in the door to get hired by Hockey Canada, and have been able to work and travel with them over the past six years.
As a result of working with them and the connections I’ve made with the other healthcare professionals, this has opened up other sports opportunities.
One of the Physio’s brought me in to do some work with rowing Canada. One of the doctors recently brought me in to be a “biosecurity officer” for the FIBA Basketball Olympic trials. In addition, this has also given me the opportunity to travel to places like Russia and Slovakia that I would not have gotten otherwise.
Now it’s also important to mention that while volunteering has given me many opportunities, a crucial part of this is also building relationships with people along the way.
This is an important aspect of any part of our business, whether you’re volunteering or not. I was exposed to many people who later gave me opportunities because of the relationship I built with them through volunteering.
Here is a bit of an overview of how volunteering has lead to more opportunities within each of my careers.
The Professional Side
This blog is one of the professional volunteer things I do.
In the last few years, writing and promoting this blog has led to opportunities where I profit off it by teaching courses. However, it was strictly a volunteer project for many years and a chance for me to learn more about research and our profession.
But, it led me to sit on the board of directors of the RMTBC for five years, which again was another great learning opportunity.
While I’m a big proponent for volunteering, I understand there are those in the profession who are against it and believe we should never work for “free”.
To a certain extent, I agree, but when I look back, there were so many of those volunteer experiences that, in the long run, made me more money than if I had never done it.
Something essential to consider is many who think we should not volunteer are also willing to jump into Facebook groups and ask questions of their colleagues for advice. In such instances like this, you ask your colleagues to “volunteer” their time to answer your questions. While this is part of professional courtesy (and should be encouraged), shouldn’t you compensate those colleagues for their time if you believe we shouldn’t volunteer? And wouldn’t it be the same if you’re sending private DM’s or emails for their professional opinion on something?
These are clearly all things you have to take into consideration for your business. If you’re a new grad and debating whether it’s worth taking the time to volunteer on something you’re really passionate about in the profession, give it a try, the long term rewards you can reap will be worth it. As time goes on and you get more experience, then you can start being more choosy about where and when you volunteer your time should you decide to do so.
Here’s a LINK to Tanner Thompson’s podcast I was on last week talking about the value of volunteering and getting involved in sport.