Question for tara and others on volunteering

Hi everybody and thank your for your support,
I’m still finishing up my undergrad and is currently in the Baltimore area. Should I start volunteering early or should I become a physician assistant ? I’ve volunteered in hospitals as a high school student before but all they made me do was to push people in wheelchairs around. Where can I get a volunteer job that I can learn a lot ( like a physician assistant or should I even consider training as a physician assistant at all ? because Johns Hopkins still have lots of those jobs open) and where do I start ? Thanks.

I guess that no matter where you go to volonteer, you’ll basically do the same thing - discharging patients, talk to them, help visitors around.
So I guess that if you want to do ‘more’, you have to be employed by the hospital, or a physician’s office.

I’ve got a couple of good volunteer gigs right now. One is in a hospice residence. Sometimes I do laundry and dishes and chat with the nurses, but often enough, I get involved in patient care–feeding patients, talking with them, rubbing their feet, and one memorable evening, sitting and holding a lady’s hand for an hour as she told me how it was she learned she was dying (happy ending–a few weeks later they booted her out to rehab and I think she went HOME from there. It’s rare, but often nice, when your patients get kicked out of the hospice for not dying). I’ve gotten to know a few of the patients fairly well. I’ve also experienced that uneasy feeling of looking around the residence and realizing all the patients will be gone when I come back in two weeks. It can be very sobering.
The other, which is on hiatus and starts up next week, is an elder life program for older patients in the hospital. We visit selected older patients who are at risk for becoming disoriented in the hospital, and keep them oriented and engaged. Sometimes it’s as simple as making sure they know what day it is, sometimes getting them to do simple range of motion exercises, or playing checkers, or chatting, or bringing them music. I get one on one contact with patients with medical or surgical condition. I don’t see procedures, but I see patients. And you get a lot more contact than you do rolling someone out to the lobby for discharge (though I like doing that, too–patients are usually so relieved to be going home).
I hope this gives you a couple of ideas you can use to find opportunities for more direct, sustained patient contact.

I volunteered for a year and a half and really didn’t get much by way of experience. Everyone is scared of the HIPPA law and as a result have severely curtailed what volunteers can do.
I’m in so I don’t have to worry about it so much, but if I had to do it again, I’d spend the month to get certified as a CNA and do that instead of volunteering in a hospital.

Here’s a quote from a previous message I had posted about my volunteer experience:
"Hospital volunteering varies by hospital. My friend volunteered in a community hospital ER and just gave directions. At the Univ of Maryland (a large teaching hospital) volunteers in the ER are used to take vitals and other patient care things (obviously nothing too life threatening), I volunteered in the PACU at Shock Trauma and got to do LOTS of hands on patient care- including hooking them up to monitors, patient bathing, removing IV’s, assisting with trach tube reties, patient transport, (I could write a very long list) . The nurses understood why I was there and took the time to teach me what was going on with each patient as well as gave me tons of hands on experience. Since the anesthesia attendings are in charge of the patient care in the PACU, I’ve gotten to know them and they too take the time to teach me. But I also asked tons of questions.
Now that I’ve worked there full time (and still part time while in school), I’ve had many pre-med volunteers come through the unit. Some just sit there like bumps on logs just waiting for their 100 hours to be up (the hospital requires you to work 100 hours in a unit in order to get a LOR). Others get in there, taking initiative and asking questions.
So success in volunteering in a hospital is a mix of the type of hospital and the type of person. Just my 2 cents."
After re-reading it, I still believe that I had a great volunteer experience, but that being outgoing and interested had a lot to do with that success. Maryland is a great place to volunteer if you pick the right unit. If where you are isn’t working out or isn’t giving you the experience you want, the volunteer coordinator (Ms. June Winkler) is great and will work with you to find the right place.
My other option was to take my EMT and volunteer in the Howard County Fire Dept. The firefighters love it when there are EMTs and Paramedics who will save them from having to ride “the box”.
Definitely taylor your volunteer experience to your interests. One of my interests at the time was emergency medicine, so my volunteer experience took me in that direction.
Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions.

What about volunteering with the fire department? You could take the EMT class and ride along. The class will take about 6 months to complete.

I guess you are an exception in that you were allowed to do so much.
I’d probably classify as ‘a bum sitting on a log’ (as you wrote), but not becasue I want to get over with my 100 hours. I’d really love to do more, where I am, but even when I asked questions, and want to do more, they don’t really let me, because I’m only a volunteer. I guess that I’m going to wait for my half a year to end, and either change a unit, or a hospital.

The “bumps on a log” that I referred to were the people who would bring in a book or magazine and sit and read it instead of diving in headfirst.
When I was doing my ortho rotation, the attending I was with was mentoring a pre-med from a local state school and he even let his mentee scrub in on surgeries and go to clinic with him. I thought that was totally cool.
Good luck with finding an experience that works for you. Think outside of the box in not-the-usual places (homeless clinics, hospice, etc) and you may find organizations that need your help and will give you a wealth of experience.

Thanks everybody for answering … My intention, Tara, was asking where and how I should apply for the volunteering position that teaches you a lot ? Do I just go to UMB hospital and ask around ? Where do I start ? Thanks.

Thanks everybody for answering … My intention, Tara, was asking where and how I should apply for the volunteering position that teaches you a lot ? Do I just go to UMB hospital and ask around ? Where do I start ? Which department should I apply to and who do i talk to ? Thanks. This is just to avoid the hassle of hospital bureaucracy and get the right volunteer position. Thanks.

Sorry for being long-winded Here is the link to the Volunteer Services page at Maryland,
After you fill out the application and fax it to them, you will be brought in for an interview. You probably need to call them and make an appt. This interview is your opportunity to let Ms. Winkler know what you are interested in. This can be a specific specialty or relating to her the type of experience you would like to get. She can then offer you positions based on your interests. I found her to be very helpful and approachable.
I had a great experience as a volunteer. I hope it is the same for you. Again, if you end up in a dept that isn’t giving you the experience you want, go back to Ms. Winkler and tell her that you need to make a change.
Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

I have volunteered a lot in the last 1/2 year in a local ER, and basically it amounts to transporting patients, talking to them, wiping down beds, cleaning up stuff, all that… but I have to say just being around “it” for that long has been a major learning experience. I do feel that people appreciate you after awhile, a lot of nights where I volunteer it gets pretty busy and they definitely appreciate me being there. Others, it seems like people don’t care.
So I guess my main point is that there is a ton of ups and downs in volunteering, some bad nights and some really good and educational nights, friendly people and crabby people (to tip toe around ).
But the longer I have been there, the cooler people have been overall… and hey, everybody has to start from somewhere.
One further thought… I think that the EMT suggestion is a pretty good one, and something I may consider if I don’t get in next year.