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The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh pre-nursing program requires students to complete volunteer hours as part of the application into the College of Nursing. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the usual volunteer opportunities were unavailable, causing students to get creative in order to meet the program requirements safely.

Like many other pre-nursing students, Kaitlyn McClain, a sophomore from Madison, was struggling to find a safe way to meet volunteer hours during the pandemic. After searching online for something that involved working from home, she found an opportunity to provide support for the Crisis Text Line.

The Crisis Text Line is a global nonprofit organization that provides 24/7 free and confidential mental health service and crisis intervention through text message. They offer volunteer opportunities that are entirely online, something that was perfect for her needs.

“Crisis Text Line had all of the training and volunteering online only. Since the pandemic shut down most other ways to volunteer, and with all of the unknowns in the beginning of the pandemic, it seemed like a great way to volunteer,” McCain said.

Aside from the format working well for her, she knew that the Crisis Text Line would give her valuable experience assisting those in need. It’s also provided her with skills necessary for her future nursing endeavors.

“The Crisis Text Line has opened my eyes to the different struggles that everyone deals with every day. It has not only given me the knowledge and skills to help others with their crises, but it also has helped improve my own mental well-being,” she said. “It also gave me a different perspective to the healthcare setting since my work hours have been in a nursing setting.”

Laura Smolinski

Laura Smolinski, assistant director of UWO’s traditional BSN program, considers the required service hours to be a great way to demonstrate a student’s commitment to service before they are accepted into the College of Nursing. For example, students have delivered meals to individuals in quarantine, assisted with COVID-19 testing and vaccine clinics and even babysat children of a nurse or essential worker.

“Volunteering is one way to show the value of altruism—the unselfish care of others. Nurses are altruistic. When most Americans are running in the opposite direction, nurses, CNAs and other healthcare staff continue to walk head-first into what can be dangerous territory—sometimes putting their own health and well-being in jeopardy,” Smolinski said. “The experiences will help to prepare them for the profession of nursing.”

Volunteering for the Crisis Text Line has proven to be beneficial for McCain, as she has been accepted into the College of Nursing for the fall 2021 semester.

McClain volunteers an average of four hours a week and plans to continue providing support for the foreseeable future. She highly recommends the Crisis Text Line to anyone who is looking to volunteer.

“Crisis Text Line is a great, accessible and flexible way to gain not only volunteer hours, but also experience assisting those in need. It’s very easy to incorporate into your work/school schedule,” she said.

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