First day of volunteering

Today was my first day of volunteering. I will be the ICU waiting room hostess at St. Vincent’s Infirmary on Saturday and Sunday, and the Surgery waiting room hostess at St. Vincent Doctor’s on Friday. I really like what I’m doing and the interaction with the people. But, I’m a little concerned. For the most part, I answer questions from patients’ family members and keep up with where patients are being transferred to. Will this kind of volunteer work be ok for when it’s time for me to apply to med school (2-3 years away)? I do have exposure to the patients in the Intensive Care Unit and the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit because I must ensure that all visitors wash their hands before and after leaving the patients’ rooms.

Congrats!! I just started my volunteering service at a local hospital (Sparrow Health System)in ER dept. It’s a good way to expose to the hospital environment and interact /w patients, nurses and docs.It’s better if you can see some actual medical procedures in surgery/trauma. It’s a good thing that you put your first step in the hospital environment. You can move on to a different areas within the hospital if you think you want to see more hands on medical stuff. And i think that’s what the med adcom wants to see.

Keep us posted-- these volunteer tales I think are some of the most enjoyable posts to read.
Today I downloaded the application for NYU Downtown Hospital volunteer translator group. It is long (four pages) and requires lots of vaccinations. I have always been a civic-minded guy-- especially with bicyclist rights stuff and AIDS education. But the frustrating thing is that the time in my life when I have the LEAST time to spare (full-time job, eight credit hours of lab science) is exactly the time when it has become most important to my future that I volunteer. I’m sure this is a catch-22 that a lot of you recognize!


I have always been a civic-minded guy-- especially with bicyclist rights stuff and AIDS education.

I wanted to pull this out of Matt’s post to emphasize it. This came up as a discussion topic over the weekend (at the OPM convention) too. In general, I think someone who’s a compatible fit for medical school IS going to be a “civic-minded guy” - even without recognizing the motivation for medicine, you just wanted to be involved, you wanted to improve your community.
Those of you who are thinking of volunteering as this huge burden: what have you done in your past? Religious group? Scouts? Neighborhood association? Children’s schools? Politics? ALL these things tag you as “civic-minded,” which is good. The clinical experience is key, of course, but do NOT discount all the other ways in which you have shown that you want to be a contributor in the life of your community. It matters, and Adcoms want to hear about it.

Well, my fist weekend of volunteering is over. Overall, it was a very fulfilling day. But, there was drama. Most of the volunteers are older (75+) ladies. My first day of training with one of these ladies was great! She was very nice and just wonderful to be around. So, I was expecting nothing less the second day. Boy, was I WRONG! I walked in and introduced myself to the lady that was there. She didn’t introduce herself, but she was still nice. She then said she was going to go ahead on and leave. I didn’t think anything of it. I just figured that someone else was supposed to come in and finish my training. No one showed up. About 2 hours later, I get a call. A very angry woman on the phone said, “I don’t know what they told you, but I’ve been working there for 25 years. I stay until 3:00. I WILL be there until 3:00 tomorrow, so you just tell them that!” She then hung up. I didn’t think too much of it, because I still hadn’t realized that this was the same nice lady that wa there earlier. Then, the phone rings again - it’s her daughter. She asks a lot of questions about how much I’m getting paid, what time did I get there, what time am I leaving, what days will I be there…etc. I explain that I don’t get paid anything, I’m a volunteer. She then says, “Oh, so you’re the one that pushed my mother out of her chair. We’re calling the police.” I tried to explain to her that I had no idea what she was talking about. She then hung up. So, now I’m just confused. I paged the volunteer coordinator and she called me back. I explained to her what had happened and she said she would take care of it. The director called me back. She explained that the lady who had called was, in fact, the lady that was there when I got there. Apparently, this woman has been working there for 25 years (she’s 80). But, she gets paid. Well, the hospital had some budget cuts, and replaced all of these workers with volunteers. This woman (and her daughter, apparently) are not too happy about this. I was just in the middle - it had nothing to do with me.
Day 2:
This same woman acted like nothing had happened. She was as nice as wine. When she decided to leave early, I made sure that was really want she wanted to do. About 15 minutes after she left, I get another nasty call from her daughter. I brush this off, and go on about my business.
Overall, I’m liking what I do. It’s great to talk to the families. Later on, I’m going to start volunteering at night in the ER. I figure this way, I’ll get exposure to both sides - the families and the patients. Oh my goodness, the patients! You should hear some of the random, everyday things that landed them in the ICU. There are 22 beds in the ICU, and of those 22, only about 4 were what you would think of as not being victims of “random” everyday things (like tying your shoe).
There are some patients who never have visitors (we have to keep a visitor log). Everytime I walk by their bed/cubicle/room, I want to just go in and talk to them. You know, ask them about their day and stuff.
There are a very cocky nurses in the ICU and one cocky med student in the CVICU. I know, as a volunteer, I’m not even registered on the totem pole. But, being a decent human being should tell you that you can’t treat everyone as if you’re superior. There is supposed to be this 2-way between the nurses/doctors and volunteers. But, it is very 1-way. For instance, they are supposed to notify us if a patient is moved to a room. This way, we can let the family know. But, they always seem to “forget”. Trust me, the way it’s said, you know it’s a lie. But, if I’ve got to check a little self-respect at the door and do a humbling dance to get the information for the families, then so be it.