Ruth M. Kleinpell, RN-CS, PhD, FAAN, FCCM
The Society’s many accomplishments are achieved because of the volunteer work of its members. As I have traveled and met many Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) members this year, it has become quite obvious that a significant number of members are truly dedicated and enjoy assisting the Society in fulfilling its mission and meeting its goals. Volunteerism plays a vital role in the Society’s mission to help us make a difference in our critical care community and beyond. The recent experiences with disaster responses by SCCM members was a true testament to this. The member response to the call for volunteers to assist with hurricane relief efforts in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere, as well as the earthquake disaster response in Mexico, was extraordinary. More than 300 people volunteered to travel to the affected areas to provide staffing relief, and nearly 40 pallets of non-medical supplies were donated to hospitals in Puerto Rico, showcasing SCCM members’ commitment to caring. I want to personally thank each of you for the ways in which you helped contribute. The details of the disaster responses are outlined in another article in this issue of Critical Connections.
“You Get What You Give” was a 1998 song by the New Radicals and was an international hit. It reached number 30 on Billboard Hot 100 Airplay, number 36 on the overall Hot 100, and number eight on the Billboard Modern Rock chart. It reached number five in the United Kingdom and number one in Canada and New Zealand. The lyrics highlight well what research has demonstrated on the benefits of volunteering—that volunteers receive by giving.
“One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.” –Gordon B. Hinckley
A UnitedHealth Group health and volunteering study report titled Doing Good Is Good for You found that being a volunteer can help to make a meaningful difference in your life.1 Their findings from a national survey of 3,351 adults revealed that volunteering helps people manage and lower their stress and feel a sense of purpose in life that leads to better health. They found that volunteers are more informed healthcare consumers and are more engaged and involved in taking care of their health. The report also highlights that volunteers have better personal scores than nonvolunteers on well-established measures of emotional well-being, including personal independence, capacity for rich interpersonal relationships, and overall satisfaction with life. Volunteering was also found to improve mood and self-esteem. It is well accepted that a core component of good health is to have a sense of purpose and meaning in life—something that can be enhanced by volunteering.
Similarly, a Corporation for National & Community Service report on volunteering found that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.2 The Institute for Volunteering Research reports that social integration is measured by the number of social roles performed by a person at any one time, or the number of social ties a person has.3 Volunteering can help by adding roles and promoting social ties that contribute to social integration and physical and mental wellbeing. The Institute highlights that volunteering improves mental health because it is a form of social participation. Providing help as a volunteer is a self-validating experience that also fosters a belief in being able to make a difference.
However, deriving health benefits from volunteering is dependent on the motives for seeking out experiences. A recent study, “Motives for Volunteering Are Associated With Mortality Risk in Older Adults,” published in the journal Health Psychology, found that people who volunteered with some regularity lived longer, but only if their intentions were truly altruistic—they had to be volunteering to help others, not to make themselves feel better.4
Additional benefits of volunteering include better time management and enhanced communication and teamwork skills. Volunteering connects you with others and can advance your career through networking—especially with members of our critical care community.
SCCM’s Creative Community
The Society has designated those members who volunteer and are currently serving on a committee, task force, or guideline committee, or who review articles for the journal or volunteer in other ways, as members of the “Creative Community.” Are you a member of the Creative Community? If not, I encourage you to consider joining!
What Is Your Level of Engagement?
For the past few years, the Society has been using an engagement index, which calculates an engagement score based many different factors. Factors include activities such as serving on work groups or committees, presenting at an educational meeting, attending a course, reviewing abstracts, receiving an award, purchasing products, donating to SCCM and much more. A member’s engagement score can help inform decisions about committee appointments, requests for SCCM members to serve as representatives to outside groups, and other appointments. Do you know your SCCM engagement score? It’s easy to access—simply log into MySCCM.org. The index ranges from the copper level up to the diamond level, with each level designating additional and sustained engagement. Below the engagement score wheel, you can find a link to the activities making up your score. My challenge to you is to increase your engagement index score—see how high you can go!
SCCM currently has more than 16,000 members, of which just over 1,800 are classified in the Creative Community. Are you a member? If so, thanks for all that you do to help support the Society! If not, why not? I encourage you to consider volunteering for one of the many opportunities for involvement that the Society offers to members. It’s easy—there is a volunteer form on the SCCM website that enables you to identify your areas of interest. The responses are reviewed, and a master list is created each year that the president-elect then uses to make appointments to the various committees, work groups, and other volunteer activities. We continue to have a 100% placement rate, meaning that all those who complete the volunteer form are matched with some kind of opportunity. Active contribution to your assigned activity can result in additional appointments within the Society, as well as other opportunities for involvement. The Greek philosopher Aristotle defined the essence of life as “to serve others and do good.” Make a difference today for yourself and others by completing the online volunteer form. I can attest through my years of involvement with the Society that the experiences will be rewarding, enriching, and beneficial! Through volunteering, you not only get what you give—you get so much more!
1. UnitedHealth Group. Doing Good Is Good For You. 2013 Health and Volunteering Study. Minnetonka, MN: UnitedHealth Group; 2013. http://www.unitedhealthgroup.com/~/media/UHG/PDF/2013/UNH-Health-Volunteering-Study.ashx. Accessed October 12, 2017.
2. Corporation for National & Community Service. The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research. https://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/07_0506_hbr.pdf. Accessed October 12, 2017.
3. Institute for Volunteering Research. Volunteering and Mental Health: A Review of the Literature. Prepared for the Social Exclusion Unit by the Institute for Volunteering Research. https://www.energizeinc.com/sites/default/files/volunteeringandmentalhealth.pdf. Accessed October 12, 2017.
4. Konrath S, Fuhrel-Forbis A, Lou A, Brown S. Motives for volunteering are associated with mortality risk in older adults. Health Psychol. 2012;31(1):87-96.