by Rik Lewis
VP of Healthcare Resource Group
A WSHIMA Gold Corporate Partner
I think it is safe to say that we have invested a lot of time planning our career. Most of us are in roles that were not anticipated when we left high school. As we gained more experience and education, we followed a path that early on was a bit murky, but eventually the path got clearer as we set career goals.
I joined Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) in 1999 at the request of my employer…after 17 years in workers’ compensation claims management, I made a career change that was less planned and more the result of opportunity. Early on in my HFMA career, leadership asked me to take a volunteer role and here I am, in my President-Elect role 17 years later.
After 10 years of supporting my chapter both at a local and regional level, I was asked by our Regional Executive “when are you going to be President of the chapter?” My response was that I was not interested…I had my plate full with work, family and Boy Scouts. Overtime, I realized that in 10 years in the future…I would be right where I am today, serving my chapter. At that moment, I realized that if I was called to serve in the capacity of president, it would be an honor.
How did it all start for me with HFMA? Our then chapter president was a very assertive woman…her approach was to directly ask you to volunteer in a specific role and it is hard to say no to your president! I had only been in the chapter less than a year and I was asked to co-chair the trade fair…a role I filled for nearly 15 years! I had no experience…I had not even attended past trade fairs!
How did it all start for me with WSHIMA? Kathy Peterson (Director and Senior Lecturer, Health Informatics and Health Information Management Program, University of Washington) asked me if I would fill the role of education chair…Kathy knew me well for a variety of reasons, but I had never really engaged with WSHIMA prior to the request. I was asked, honored at the opportunity, jumped in head first!
The WSHIMA chapter is not unlike most trade associations, including HFMA…far too few volunteers carrying too much of the load. There is so much to do and so little time. In many instances, chapter leaders get overwhelmed in our roles that we fail to delegate.
In my opinion, volunteering your time is unconditional; if you’re lucky you will fill a role that you are passionate about, but ultimately you are supporting the needs of the organization first.
Have you ever offered to volunteer and never been taken up on your offer? That is a difficult situation…often the volunteer is disappointed…thinking maybe they are not viewed as a competent person or that it is personal and the leaders don’t like you. The good news is that is not the case…many times leaders forget the offer or fail to immediately have a role that might meet your needs. Quite honestly, this happens all the time.
Quick tips to volunteering your time:
- Identify an area in the chapter that you are passionate about…where do you think you can best help?
- Don’t take no for an answer, if you don’t get an immediate positive answer or volunteer assignment…don’t give up. Don’t take it personal…it isn’t about you.
- Don’t get frustrated if you start off in a supportive role…starting off slowly is usually best for all
- Be aware of what is happening in your chapter…there are a variety of ways to volunteer
- Do what you say you will do to the best of your ability. If you have a role but don’t fully understand your responsibilities or duties…ask for help! If you are falling short and cannot fulfil your responsibilities…communicate your challenge and ask for help.
- Network with other members…often you have friends in the chapter that can help you find the right spot for you
Planning your volunteer career is usually a series of short, unconditional goals and needs change as well as your availability. You may not want to fill an officer or board member role but things change over time. Volunteering is neither hard nor easy…but typically no different than helping at your children’s school or at church…one thing leads to another. Volunteering is fun and rewarding!