Volunteering in a Hospital Setting

Well I am settled in enough this semester to start piling on something else…

For those who are doing volunteer time at a hospital what are you doing? I am curious what the opportunities are in this setting. I am not quite sure what to request on my volunteer applications.

As always thanks for the input!

Large facilities such as hospitals can give you a broad and comprehensive exposure to the whole spectrum of modern, technologically-oriented medicine, especially in the U.S. While some volunteers are relegated to being candy-stripers and grunts getting gurneys, other places let you take vitals, do injections, do CPR, etc. – provided you have the appropriate valid certifications and licenses. If you like blood and guts, one of the best positions in a hospital is that of an ER Tech – you would need to get an EMT license and a Phlebotomy license, but it is a nice alternative to being just an EMT or a Phlebotomist.

But I will play contrarian here:

I worked my way through college the first time as a medical assistant (back and front) at a large state hospital; I rotated through just about every department they had and learned a lot. I also volunteered a year working with children at a local children’s hospital, assisting their “child life” department. At the same time, I was running a free clinic for the homeless in the evening and on weekends; I found the latter much more interesting. There was less bureaucracy, more patient interaction, and I could do things and see things that I had never experienced in either of the other settings. And the population was certainly very deserving; many of our patients were turned away from local private hospitals because they lacked insurance (this scenario has changed since then due to new laws). When my interests shifted to international health, I knew that I wanted to volunteer in a smaller, more intimate environment, where I could get to know both patients and my fellow health workers.

Therefore, while volunteering at a hospital can give you exposure to clinicians and procedures “all in one place” I also suggest you look into smaller clinics and NGOs that do health work.

Personally I prefer volunteering in the free clinic to my time in the ER. They have really cit back on what volunteers can do in the hospitals in my area due to legal issues and hippaa, but my free clinic lets me use my ski patrol skills to be almost a nurse.

Yes, when I was at our free clinic, I was allowed to do things that many nurses and some PAs do now. But I was not premed at the time; I did not decide to go premed until after I left that free clinic.

I’m very fortunate in that I’ve been able to find a volunteer position that’s relatively substantial. I’m a volunteer research assistant at a county hospital in the ER. I work for one of the attendings that’s also faculty at a major UC med school. We focus on pediatric emergency medicine for our research.

Right now I’m the lead research assistant on a branch of the main research being conducted. I work very closely with the attending, a resident and a med student; plus I have another research assistant that I supervise. I’ve been responsible for conducting literature searches, writing technical reports, maintaining the regulation binder, building a database, and even some manuscript authoring. I’m also learning to program with STATA so that I can do some of the statistical analysis for our study. It’s been fantastic experience!

Aside from that, I attend a clinical lecture each week on a wide range of topics (from blast injuries to ultrasound and beyond). I also work a shift in the ER once a week enrolling patients into studies (I did bioethics training through the NIH for that) and I shadow the residents and attendings. They treat us a lot like med students. I’m learning a tremendous amount! Since our ER is a trauma center I see quite a bit of traumas run too. All in all it’s been a very valuable experience. I’m a lucky, lucky girl!

Good luck to you. I hope you’re able to find something interesting!