meaningful, quality inpatient clinical volunteering questions

i’m trying to move on from obsessing about my UG years and actually doing something meaningful in my spare time. I’m not enrolled in school, so time is on my side at the moment.

so, does anyone have helpful hints for looking quality volunteer work? What should I ask for? What should I say “no thanks” to?

i called Shriner’s Hospital earlier today with a general inquiry and I’m waiting on a call back. About six months ago, I had an afternoon visit with a group of my ESL students (south american physicians and surgeons). I was blown away by the work being done there.

as an aside, i’m thinking about becoming an STNA so I could open up the field of volunteer work more. i really don’t want to get stuck behind a desk-- i’d like to work with people.

I don’t have any volunteer hours under my belt yet, but from what I’ve read here, it’s likely you’ll hear two themes in replies to your question:

    Pick something you enjoy or find meaningful so that it resonates deeply in your personal statement

    As much you can control, choose an opportunity that allows you maximum clinical experience and patient contact possible. If that means 6 months behind a desk until medical staff get comfortable enough to let you "in", then that's what it will take.

thanks for the reply. i found a website called, and i’m hoping that can help too.

Most larger hospitals have a volunteer coordinator, and you can look at volunteer opportunities on the hospital website. (If that’s the direction you want to go.) They usually list the different areas you can get involved in, and you apply for the ones that interest you. They are used to working with students, so it’s not a big deal to call and discuss your goals with the volunteer coordinator.

(That’s been my experience, anyway.)

Good luck!

thanks for responding.

i talked to the volunteer coordinator at Shriner’s Hospital today. She said there wasn’t a lot of hands on work at the moment as they didn’t have many patients (which is a good thing, considering its for burn patient LTC). she sent me the application.

i’m going to contact all our local hospital networks and get the applications over the next week

I think the remark about meaningful opportunities is extremely important, if only because you really need to bank up a lot of hours (my school requires 120, but many students apply with 200-300 volunteer hours, or more). I have been told you should also try to get a mix of research and clinical if you can. I am lucky being in NYC as there are a lot of opportunities here, but often there is research going on in the smallest towns, so look around.

The worst thing you can do is not try at the places that you find fit your interests. Think of it this way, the worst thing that can happen is that they say no, which is better than not contacting places to volunteer at all. You’d be surprised who need volunteers too, I found that at the Medical Museum that I volunteer at was in desperate need of volunteers, I would of had no idea unless I called them up. That’s another thing, people are much more accepting when you contact them directly. Give them a friendly phone call and let them know that you are interested. A lot of times if they don’t have any openings, they will keep your information on record.

So my advice would be, find the places that interest you, that reflect your personality and your goals and start making those phone calls/ setting up meetings. I know it might be harder in rural areas (I too have the luxury of living in a large city), but most organizations out there are ecstatic that there is someone out there interested and wanting to help.

I used a volunteer website in my area to match me up to organizations that fit my volunteer goals. I went through training with my local hospital, but with my tight schedule, the volunteer coordinator had me on a wait list for some time. I was personally always drawn to Hospice and working w/ the elderly so I knew a Hospice organization or nursing home would be my next choice. I used the same website to find both, eventually interviewing and going through extensive training to be a Hospice Companion (direct patient contact)on an inpatient Hospice unit. The training alone took months for me to fit into my schedule, but was worth it. I now volunteer 4 hours every Friday evening and I love it. That is key. Don’t just choose a volunteer position that will “look good” or to bank hours. Find something that really hits a chord with you otherwise you may end up dreading and/or resenting your volunteer experience and that will benefit no one. Obviously, if medical school is your goal, an opportunity in healthcare should be foremost, but I don’t feel it is necessary. If you find helping out at a church, homeless shelter, or food pantry fits you, then go for it. It’s about giving back anyway, not just padding a CV. Becoming a dr. is hard work but is also about giving back and dedicating your life’s work to helping others, so any volunteer opportunity that demonstrates this drive in you should be worthy!

As for availability, if it interests you, check with a local nursing home. They always need help! I, too, found hospitals to be such popular places to volunteer that it is hard to get in. I was lucky in that the Hospice org. I volunteer for operates out of the hospital but is separate from them, so I did not have to be wait listed like I did w/ the hospital.

The training I received was excellent and I got a lot of CNA type training w/o having to attend more costly and time consuming CNA classes, which I, too, considered. I work directly w/ patients in a variety of ways, from companionship to feeding to repositioning and helping nurses and CNAs. I also help the families, stock linens, clean and do whatever else may need to be done. It’s variety but experience, too. The other night, I walked a patient around and talked with him a lot and then spent the rest of the shift talking with another patient. I left really happy and fulfilled that night. I didn’t have any “clinical” volunteering that night, but the opportunity to connect with two wonderful people at the end of their lives was extraordinary and reminded me of why I am working so hard to get to where my passion is-medicine and helping others.

At any rate, Good luck! If your intention is to help others, a great opportunity will find you.