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Help Wanted: Volunteer and be Part of the Future of Rehabilitation Nursing

​The 2023 Call for Volunteers is now open! Take the next steps in your rehab nursing career by working alongside some of the top-tier professionals in your field.No matter your availability, skills, or experience - there is an opportunity for everyone! This article, by Linda Pierce, PhD MSN RN CRRN FAAN, a long-time ARN member and volunteer, shares her thoughts about the importance of volunteering and the valuable experience that you can gain.

The 'help wanted' invitation signs are posted! In the 21st century, volunteers are needed to lead professional organizations, e.g., American Association of Neuroscience Nurses, Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (ARN), Midwest Nursing Research Society, Sigma Theta Tau International, American Stroke Association. Specific to ARN, the aim of this column is to present a compendium of key strategies and opportunities to inform rehabilitation nurses, as they step up and apply for and stride into chapter and national ARN volunteer leadership roles. In order to cultivate ARN volunteer leaders, the organization has many opportunities for diverse and developmental assignments for professional nurses both earlier and later in their careers.

Rehabilitation nurses and ARN members in any volunteer role are people who guide and influence other team members to perform well and achieve a stated goal. These volunteers follow transformational processes in that they develop vision and find a way forward to achieve specific organizational goals. They exhibit a strategic view, person-centered management skills, open mindedness and promote innovation. Rehabilitation nurses in any volunteer role strive to create circles of influence and lead by inspiring. Volunteers become organizational leaders. A list of general leadership characteristics is presented in the Table (Center for Creative Leadership, 2023; Indeed, 2022; Mathers, 2019).

Key Leadership Strategies 

Organizational volunteers demonstrate leadership as they are part of the team. First, vision is a leadership element that involves looking at a larger picture. Second, leaders spend time focusing on innovation and coming up with new, exciting plans. Next, leaders also need to be self-aware, so they understand how they impact the nurses and others around them. And finally, two-way learning is a leader's belief that insight and advice can come from anywhere (Center for Creative Leadership, 2023).


Visionary leaders help the team understand the greater part that they can play in helping the organization. They motivate the people they work with to help them catch that vision. They help teams see their contributions in a bigger light, as part of an overall vision for success. Leaders focus on some of the larger picture outcomes and help everyone get on board with the organization (Center for Creative Leadership, 2023; Lucas Group, 2014).


Creativity is key for effective innovation in leaders. They are always looking for new ideas/things that they could try to help organizations move forward. Leaders help organize ways to make those innovations come to fruition (Center for Creative Leadership, 2023; Hasan, 2022; Lucas Group, 2014).


Leaders need to have self-awareness in seeing how they impact the team. In other words, team members need to see that their leaders trust them. This is crucial to team members feeling confident in their work. Control is another important element for effective leaders. All leaders need control to make sure that team members who follow them believe that they have something important to show them (Adib, 2020; Lucas Group, 2014).

Two-way Learning

Leaders need two-way learning to be able to accept ideas and insights from team members. Being willing and excited about listening to other members is crucial to being successful as a leader. It is vital to understand that leaders can learn from anyone in the organization, no matter their position (Adib, 2020; Lucas Group, 2014; Tanner, 2022).

Discussion and Implications for Practice

Answer the 'help wanted' invitation. ARN members have said and personal reflection reveals that: 1) 'volunteers make a real difference in the lives of those who the organization serves;' 2) ' volunteering is a great way to meet others, build new relationships and expand career opportunities;' 3) 'as a volunteer, new skills are learned that promote critical thinking that add leadership skill sets, increasing competence and knowledge;' and 4) 'becoming a volunteer can be beneficial for future endeavors and overall personal leadership development.' Volunteer with ARN and become a leader, collaborate with others, and contribute to rehabilitation nursing practice.

"I always get back more than I give and it is a true learning experience!"

No work is small and volunteers are extremely valuable. There are many ways to get involved within ARN at the chapter and/or national level based on the member's interest, experience and availability (ARN, 2022). If available, join a local chapter close to home or online. At the chapter level, volunteers are usually needed to serve as officers, e.g., president, vice-president, secretary, or treasurer, as well as members/chairpersons for committees such as education, community outreach, healthcare policy and advocacy, etc. For instance, in my Ohio chapter I served on the education committee. One year, I helped plan and execute a workshop where a United States House of Representatives was the featured speaker. At the end of this day, I walked away with a better understanding of how Congress supports rehabilitation legislation and how individuals might get more involved with healthcare policy.

Explore the options of serving on national ARN committees and task forces. For over 30 years, I have served in many different ARN capacities. I initially served on the Rehabilitation Nursing Certification Board (RNCB) and later on the ARN Research Committee/Advancing Science and Practice Committee. The RNCB was an exciting experience that included learning how to write and evaluate test questions. The work of the RNCB took several days spread throughout the year. These tasks served me well, as I later became a university nursing instructor responsible for generating valid and reliable test questions for my courses. After several years I served on the Research Committee as a reviewer of data-based, quality assurance and/or evidence-based projects. I read and critiqued proposals for potential funding in my field of interest, e.g., general rehabilitation and especially caregivers and stroke. Usually, I received no more than one proposal in the spring and I spent three-four hours critiquing the importance, content and design, population and sampling methods, timeliness, data management and dissemination, resources (budget and people), and overall importance of the planned project.

I have also worked as a manuscript reviewer for the Rehabilitation Nursing journal (RNJ). As a RNJ reviewer, I review about five manuscripts each year in my area of expertise, providing an analysis of its merits and answering specific question posted on the RNJ reviewer website. I am always invigorated in learning about a variety of submission topics such as patients' falls, medication errors, caregivers and stroke. I spend approximately three-five hours reading and giving suggestions to each potential RNJ author(s) that potentially make their manuscript more inclusive and readable.

In 2022 I joined the RNCB Audit Panel. The work of the panel is more intense at the beginning and at the mid-term of each year. For example, I spent a couple of hours total in evaluating six Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurse renewal 2023 applicants' worksheet. Applicants list their 60 points of credit for professional development activities, e.g., continuing education, presentations, academic coursework, professional publications, and/or community service. I find the applicants' worksheets interesting, as it leads me to think that I need similar continuing education, or if applicable I read their publications and/or consider attending their future presentations.

Being a volunteer for ARN often leads to development and maturation into the 'best that you can be.' Consider how you might volunteer with ARN. There are many local and/or national opportunities to fit your schedule to collaborate with colleagues and contribute to the practice of rehabilitation nursing. A call for ARN national volunteers with an application form is listed on the ARN's website (see https://rehabnurse.org/membership/volunteer/volunteer) each fall for the upcoming year.


Professional rehabilitation nurses throughout their careers can use these key strategies as they continue to grow and become volunteers and leaders for ARN or other professional organizations. Answer the ARNs invitation for 'Help Wanted!' Specifically, ARN volunteers can help rethink, challenge and develop rehabilitation nursing across the continuum of care. The future of rehabilitation nursing and the ARN depends upon you, its volunteers.


Adib, R. (2020). Effective leadership: 4 key qualities of a good leader. Shine. Effective Leadership: 4 key qualities of a good leader • Shine (shinecoachingbarcelona.com)

Association of Rehabilitation Nurses. (2022). Find your place in an ARN volunteer position. https://rehabnurse.org/membership/volunteer/volunteer

Center for Creative Leadership. (2023). 10 characteristics of a good leader. The 10 Characteristics and Qualities of a Good Leader | CCL

Hasan, S. (2022). Top 15 leadership qualities that make good leaders. TaskQue. Top 15 Leadership Qualities That Make Good Leaders (taskque.com)

Indeed. (2022). 26 leadership characteristics to effectively manage teams. 26 Leadership Characteristics To Effectively Manage Teams | Indeed.com

Lucas Group. (2014). Five traits of effective leaders. Five Traits of Effective Leaders - LucasGroup

Mathers, C. (2019). 14 characteristics and qualities of a good leader.14 Characteristics and Qualities of a Good Leader (developgoodhabits.com)

Tanner, R. (2022). 15 common characteristics of effective leaders. 15 Common Characteristics of Effective Leaders – Management is a Journey®

About the Author 

Dr. Linda Pierce is Professor Emerita at the University of Toledo, OH. Prior to the university appointment, Linda was the Associate Director and Clinical Nurse Specialist for the rehabilitation hospital at the MetroHealth System in Cleveland (OH).

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