Volunteering at Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers

For those of you looking for volunteer oportunities, the Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers and clinics seem to always be in need.

I made initial contact about 2 months ago and just served my first 5-hour shift today. There was an application process and a short interview with the nursing staff of the unit where I am assigned.

At the local VA medical center, I was given the option to apply to the ER or the spinal cord injury unit, and I chose the latter.

My first day involved feeding quadraplegic patients and attending to non-medical care needs of the patients such as ensuring they have fresh water, helping the nurses to move them, etc. I also helped with some clerical duties (answering phones, data entry, etc.). Overall, volunteers are needed at this specific unit so the nurses can spend more time on the medical tasks. I found it to be a great exposure to this area of health care, and I also enjoyed the conversations with the patients during the meal times.

Bottom line: the VA is a good place to start for those looking for volunteer opportunities. The following website should get you there:


Best wishes to all in your medical journey.


It is exactly those types of experiences with sincere heart-felt meaning that admissions committees appreciate about volunteer experiences. Contrary to some popular myths, you do not need to “save the world” and invent a new surgical tool, etc, to have a meaningful experience.

Glad to hear your experience was so positive. They are a great patient population. Definitely recommend keeping some type of journal to record those experiences and emotions to review when preparing your med school application and interview.

Sounds like a great experience!

And I concur with Tec – keep a log/journal of your experiences. I’m definitely doing that with my own volunteering work.

It’s awesome for you that you are getting good patient experience like that. I’ve talked to two people that have volunteered at the VA, and they both ended up doing basically all clerical work, since they weren’t medically trained. They couldn’t even push a patient in a wheelchair from one room to the next. Phones, data entry, paperwork, etc. That was it.