Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Sunday musings…The End of Volunteerism?

Sunday musings…

1) Supercilious. What you call it when the punctilious escalate.

2) Fears. “I’ve started harassing the guards at the borders surrounding my fears.” How one of my patients has described her late-in-life efforts to get outside her comfort zone.

Everything about that is cool.

3) Volunteerism. In our world of ever-increasing transparency, willful or otherwise, how long will the phenomenon of volunteerism in support of any type of organization that generates revenue in excess of expenses be expected to continue? An obvious example is the CrossFit Games of course, but that’s hardly the only, or even the best example. In the sports world alone there are organizations that hold events on a nearly weekly basis that cannot be run without the toils of volunteers who work for the pleasure of being involved.

Think about it. Track and swim meets, road races, so-called adventure races, now and for as long as such things have been held. Heck, even all of those huge soccer festivals that dominate the weekends in my little corner of the midwest, run by volunteers and providing the revenue stream for the coaches of “elite” travel teams. Local fitness competitions run as a revenue generator by a Box owner. All kinds of stuff like that.

By no means is this phenomenon unique to the world of sports. In my day job I am a physician in private practice. As such I have provided specialty coverage and care for the ER at several local hospitals over my 25+ years in practice. This type of volunteerism was such a normal part of the medical landscape when I graduated that neither I nor any of my peers ever gave a single thought to why we did it. It simply never occurred to us that the hospitals could not function without our participation, nor did we ever really think about the egregious imbalance that existed in the deal, the docs so far on the losing side that the “D” in MD could have stood for “Dupe”. As the hospitals have grown ever larger, generating ever greater “excess revenue” by paying their employed doctors for work they still accept (and expect) from others, the volunteers have revolted.

I begrudge no one the pursuit of profit, even hospitals. Indeed, I have, and will continue to volunteer at events local and national for the same reason most other folks do: to feel a sense of belonging, to be a part of a whole. I might even continue to provide emergency coverage at the local hospital. Sometimes, though, I just wonder whether some tiny societal tipping point has occurred, disrupting the jewel that is the bond between organization and volunteer.

To offer your services without compensation one must believe in the mission of an organization or institution. That mission may be maximizing profit, and rightfully so. One should not find it surprising, though, when no one volunteers for that kind of enterprise.

I’ll see you next week…

Posted by bingo at August 16, 2015 8:02 AM

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