Community Service: Why volunteering can help you and your PT career; by Stephanie Palacios, SPT

For the TED Talk lovers:
Researchers from all over the world have been studying the science and physiology of giving for decades. They’ve discovered that giving makes you happy, makes you high, is our bodies natural “Fountain of Youth” and reduces stress. Below I've provided you with a TED Talk about a woman whose inspirational journey with her son and thousands of children will inspire you start a daily giving habit that will make you happy and change the world. Otherwise, read on to discover the invaluable benefits of volunteering right now as an SPT. 


Currently, most people consider volunteer work to be an optional extracurricular activity. It appears only 28% of people aged 19-24 and 19% of people 25 and older volunteered in 2009.

Therefore, most students are missing out on opportunities that can help them on a personal level, as well as on a professional level.

Now, I know what you're thinking. A professional level? Can service really be that large of an impact? Here are seven short reasons why you may benefit from doing at least a few community service events while you are an SPT:

1.      Community service has been associated with academic rewards

Students that volunteer tend to perform better in school. It appears service learning enhances learning by applying your academic learning to real human needs. For example, if you learn about SCI, and then volunteer for SCI support groups, you will gain invaluable knowledge that will help you relate to that patient population on a more personal level.

2.      Being active in the community makes you more attractive to employers

As entry-level therapists, many of us will not have a wide patient base who can vouch for our qualities as ideal therapists (things like patience, compassion, and leadership). By having volunteered and by gaining references from these experiences, we can demonstrate that we have values that resonate with a certain clinic’s mission statement. This can be particularly beneficial if you seek out opportunities that are related to your setting. After all, studies have shown that volunteers have a better chance of landing a job after not working than do people who do not volunteer.

3.      Community service can help you earn scholarships

PT scholarships are quite difficult to come by nowadays. And if you haven’t noticed, most of them look for students that have experience with volunteering. Scholarship organizations know that you're studying hard and that you could really use some help. But, they want to know how you’re spending your free time. Are you giving back to the community occasionally? Just a few hours at health fairs, soup kitchens, or even reading books for children can optimize your chances at getting a scholarship.

4.      Students can gain networking opportunities through volunteer work

I find that networking is kind of like dating. If you don’t go out there and meet new people, how will you ever find those individuals? Surely, there’s social media. But, if you want to develop personal connections with people in your field, community service is a great way to go about it. By doing so, you can increase your chances of meeting leaders in your field that can point you in the right direction, or even help you find a job post-graduation.

5.      Community service is a great for continuously advancing your problem-solving and team building skills

In our profession, we must encounter difficult situations that will challenge us to think outside of the box. We do not work in isolation, after all. You can practice working on your communication and problem solving skills with service team members, which can carry over into just about any setting.

6.      Community service can be beneficial for your health

Studies have shown that volunteering is correlated with improved health, and that older volunteers are more likely to obtain mental and physical benefits from volunteering.

7.      Volunteering helps the economy!

In the year 2012, 64.5 million Americans (26.5% of the population) contributed 7.9 billion hours of community service. That's equal to about $175 billion worth of service!

For all these reasons and more, volunteering in your community can improve your life and your profession. Please check out the APTA of MD SSIG's Facebook page for events related to volunteering and upcoming resources related to service.

Stephanie Palacios, SPT