Volunteer? OK, but where's time?

I know the importance of volunteering for Med School. My plans are to shadow a few docs in various specialties of interests to see what it’s like. But I really want to do other things and I have signed up for two opportunities: listen and encourage students, and the other is to help kids with disabilities.

The issue I have is the following: I have 2 kids (3 years old and 1 month old) and I work part-time while my wife works full time. We are not sending our kids to day care because it would cost about $1500/month and we would not make ends meet. So during the day I keep my kids and at night I teach (which on an hourly basis pays OK). On top of that I have to take all my pre-reqs. Having a PhD in biochem, I will do OK in sciences (as I did in the past), but I still have to study quite a bit, even in Biology!

So how do you guys fit volunteering in your schedule? What’s the deal here, because frankly between work/study and family I would have to stop sleeping.

What is the view of admission committees for people like us who have plenty of responsibilities and too little free time?

I don’t think the volunteering needs to be excessive. What i mean by that is if you do just a few hours a week, over time it’ll add up. It’ll be tough trying to cram 100hrs of volunteering into one month, but if you do it over 6 months or a year, it should be doable. When I was in school years ago (2nd time around now), I volunteered 4 hours a week on Thursday evenings in the NICU at our county hospital. Over 6 months I had about 100 hours. I plan to do pretty much the same thing again plus shadow a few doc’s. So just like most who have succeeded n this forum, just take it slow.

Hope that helps a bit.

Never2late, thanks for the answer. I guess I will take it slowly and over the course of time it will add up as you suggested. I just hope to be able to commit long enough as most opportunities require that you volunteer for a minimum of time.

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box, as well. Look for opportunities to volunteer that you could do at home or while taking your kids with you. I made crocheted angels for an organization for several years at approximately an hour per week. Our local hospice needs volunteers to do bereavement/follow-up calls. You might check with local nursing homes about volunteering opportunities there - you might be able to take the kids along for some of them. If you have computer skills, maybe there is a local organization that needs a website designed/maintained or flyers/mailings designed. Don’t be afraid to make a few phone calls to organizations and explain that you would love to help but have some limitations and see what ideas they might have.

From my understanding, those who have PhD’s (and PhD students) do not even have to take the MCAT. You are non-traditional in an even greater sense than the rest of us: you are held to different standards altogether. You ARE a doctor already, and you have far less to prove to anyone.

Volunteering can be a great experience, not so much to show the ADCOMs, but for your own satisfaction and even your own experience. I have ten years of clinical experience, but I started volunteering in my hospital blood bank because a) it looked good (quite honestly) and b) I worked on a surgical trauma team and watched hundreds of patients get transfusions. This became my “cause,” and all good intentions aside, I’m usually annoyed by people who are irritating about causes.

But fewer than 5% of those who can donate actually do so, and few do so on a regular basis. Hospitals pay upwards of $300 per UNIT to the American Red Cross and local organizations that literally capitalize on blood donations. If people donate directly to their local blood bank, the hospital pays only the charge for testing the blood, then transfuses patients in need without a huge price tag.

That’s my speech. I donate a few hours every week, and will continue to do so long after I list my experience with AMCAS. It’s also nice to spend time with donors and patients who need regular transfusions. Even in my non-physician role, I never had time to spend just holding people’s hands and talking to them. It’s only a few hours a week, but I feel like I’m making a difference in a way I couldn’t otherwise.

I know a lot of students volunteer in the summer only. Not sure how many hours. (Sorry for repeating my stats to those of you on here frequently). I have 3 kids under 3 yoa. I go to school full time and I fly 2 days a week. I started volunteering this quarter 4 hrs a week. I love it. However, it seems to take a big portion of the day. I recommend it, but, I can’t say it’s without cost to my family and study time.


thanks for your input. It seems that the common theme is to do what I can with the time I have. I did quite some volunteering back in the days I was in high school, mentoring students from middle school about 8 hours/month for nearly 3 years. I have participated to few things with kids as well (teaching them how to Ski 2 to 3 WE/year, but it was a way for me to get free skiing passes, so I am not sure it is volunteering). But since I have grown up and have so much to worry about, I stopped.

ehughes, I wish you were right, but I have to go through the same requirements as any applicant. Obviously my PhD in Biochem / Publications help, but the MCAT and the pre-reqs must be taken (or re-taken). Now the admission committees may be more lenient toward Biology/Chemistry requirements (i.e if they are not completed by the application time), but I am pretty sure that I have to complete most of the reqs. And I know that the MCAT has to be good (specially since I have a PhD). You think a PhD might help, but in fact it increases the standard up to which I have to perform. A MCAT score above 35 wouldn’t be a great score in my situation,as anything less would be seen as very embarrassing and my application would certainly raise questions.

I am volunteering in the emergency room, and its only 4 hours a week during the weekends. Its not bad at all…I dont have kids but i work 40-50 hours a week and take 2 courses a semester with labs, and its do-able for me


quite a schedule. I will work part-time and take care of my kids, full time. So courses with labs, no way for now till I figure something out.

Anyway, I will keep what you have said in mind for sure.