ANA Position Statement

Ethical Considerations for Local and Global Volunteerism

Liz Stokes, JD, MA, RN


Online J Issues Nurs. 2020;25(1) 

In This Article


Nurses often express a desire to serve others as a volunteer. They volunteer within their communities and across borders in global settings. While nurses considering participation or serving as a volunteer express altruistic intention, their actions may result in unintended adverse consequences to the host community. The purpose of this position statement is to promote ethically responsible volunteer efforts classified as short-term (six months or less) practice experiences in local and global health care and public health (Wilson et al., 2016). This position statement includes volunteer activities by nurses and nursing students sponsored by academic institutions, religious and secular nongovernmental organizations, and for-profit businesses (Lasker et al., 2018). Additional terms encompassing global volunteering include service learning and health care missions (Dalmida et al., 2016).

This position statement excludes nurse volunteer activities at the onset of a complex humanitarian emergency, in long-term assignments through the Peace Corps or other agencies, in global health policy development, in fundraising, or in conducting research. It also excludes non-health activities such as teaching English to speakers of other languages and building houses.