Volunteering-What's the best avenue to take?

Hey gang…
boy am I full of questions and comments this week…
I've been doing a lot of research on random schools this week so hey, who knows…
My question is… does anyone have any input on what types of volunteering are best?
I've been running a support group for several years (before I went back to school). I've become affiliated with a group of women who do volunteer work… and for the last couple of months I've been helping out with disabled children riding horses… I had originally planned on volunteering at some of the local hospitals and had contacted many of them, but man do people drag their feet around here…
anyway… one of the groups I contacted previously was hospice… and they've just recently contacted me back… now I need to decide… do I want to continue doing some of the stuff I've been doing, add hospice or add hospital work…
I really am torn… All interest me… and I would like to help (otherwise I never would have contacted the groups to volunteer in the first place)… but I think I'm kind of looking at it this point as which one might help me out the most… I know that's really selfish… and I don't mean it just like that… but I know what I'm up against and I need all the help I can get… and if I can help out in an area great… and if it helps me out in return (besides being a HUGE learning experience), then that'd be great too…
What do y'all think?

By far the most important thing about volunteer work IMHO is that it be something that is meaningful to you, that you can speak/write about passionately if asked. Don't be a run-of-the-mill hospital volunteer unless you really WANT to work in a hospital.
Now, all that having been said, you do need to have some sort of clinical experience so that AdComs know that you've seen something of how medicine/health care works. This can be shadowing, or even personal experience (handled vee-e-e-e-e-rr-r-r-r-r-ry carefully). Your volunteer work does NOT have to be medical to be meaningful.

How about shadowing? You already have great volunteer experience, so it sounds like you need clinical experience. I found shadowing to be VERY cool and the doc also gave me a very nice letter which I’m pretty sure helped me get in.
The problem with volunteering in the hospital was that it really wasn’t clinical (at least in my experience). When I volunteered at the children’s hospital, I was not allowed to look at patient charts or even to know what was wrong with them. I enjoyed playing with the kids, but sometimes it made me wish I was home with mine!
I did a little time in the ER also, and didn’t really get a whole lot out of it. I felt kind of “extra” - there wasn’t that much for me to do. Of course, I didn’t stay long either.
Do you know any doctors who would let you shadow? If not, perhaps you could ask your family physician - or see if they could recommend someone.
Hope this helps.

IMHO, listen to yourself here…
"I’ve been running a support group for several years (before I went back to school). I’ve become affiliated with a group of women who do volunteer work… and for the last couple of months I’ve been helping out with disabled children riding horses"
Wow…this is great stuff you’ve been doing. And I think it’s genuinely more “you” than volunteering in a hospital for the sake of volunteering in a hospital! wink.gif
If I were on an admissions committee, here’s how I think I’d translate what you’ve done:
1. running a support group for several years = leadership, organization
2. affiliated with a group of women who do volunteer work = community serve, teamwork
3. helping out with disabled children riding horses = very cool, unusual experience
4. all of this speaks to your community involvement and compassion…you don’t say what the support group or women’s group has done, but if those experiences translate well into your essay, then you’ve got a lot to talk about already
If you want to do hospice work, you can train for that pretty quickly too and be assigned to patients. (My hospice training was about 14 hours of meetings, videos, and reading. Leaving the last of “my” hospice patients was the most difficult good-byes when we moved to for me to start med school, but hospice work is/was great experience).
For clinical experience, I agree shadowing is terrific, especially if you’re following a doc who will answer your questions about lifestyle, work hours, and some of them might trust you to really help (with bandaging, small procedures, etc.)
Another thing you might be able to do is ride with an ambulance crew…more likely if you’re already in an EMT/first responder type course. CPR certification is a good idea. Regional med clinics also need help.
Just my 2 cents here, get a bit of clinical experience, but don’t overlook the neat things you’ve already done!

I'm also trying to figure out what volunteer activity to pursue. So far, I have been (unsuccessfully) chasing a hospital setting. The volunteer coordinater is #$%^&* lazy! Can't seem to call me back or communicate with a department on my behalf. I'm giving this particular hospital one last shot and talking to someone responsible for the ER. Possible but apparently there are no other volunteers in the ER anymore and they aren't sure what I would be allowed to do. The chick in the volunteer office keeps trying to send me to the pharmacy. Ugh! I may try another hospital. Anyone have any favorite in Nausau county Long Island?
My question is this: What do you/ can you do when you shadow a physician? It doesn't sound right to me, with all the privacy laws, that I would watch them with patients. Am I wrong?
I have just relocated here (for post-bacc & NY residency) so my actual contacts are rather poor. Anyone have any advice for me? I am interested in doing ER medicine. Also, I would like to learn more about DOs. I could cold call… but I thought working in a hospital first would help me meet people.
Thanks all.

This is a good thread. Volunteer work at the local hospital consists of handing out books and giving directions. Does anyone have any ideas about volunteer work, besides the local hospital, where you can actually learn something? And could someone whom has shadowed a D.O. please tell us how you were able to do it, what you did and your experiences relating to what you learned from shadowing. Thanks.

Also, check out www.volunteermatch.org … through them I found a walk-a-thon that I volunteered as a registrar for, then was able to walk with my family to raise some money for juvenile diabetes research. While that was a one-time thing, there's also ongoing volunteer opportunities on that site.
For shadowing a D.O., call them! First, I'd send a letter and CV to their office and follow up with a phone call. Tell their office person that you're applying to med school, need/want to shadow, etc…see what you can do.
Also, volunteering for some 'help line' (e.g. suicide, poison prevention, domestic violence, etc.) is a possibility too, as are children's summer camps for kids who have cancer or some other disease. Look outside the box!

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.

Update Update… smile.gif
I have an “interview” with the coordinator for hospice on Thursday. I still am not sure that it’s the best avenue to take… but I’m going to check it out anyway… smile.gif
I spent most of yesterday volunteering for an event… I met the doc and nurse that coordinated it and I was told I could shadow her… She’s a pediatric neurosurgeon… I’m excited… hopefully all of that will work out…
so…I think that maybe I would suggest for shadowing… if you happen to volunteer at a “health-related” event… you might make some contacts…
Just a suggestion… I’ll post back about the hospice “interview” after it happens on Thursday.
Happy Volunteering

Very cool!
Sounds corny, but hospice work will open hearts…and you get to do neat things with people, difficult things too. I can give you stories about this, but it’s probably better if you get to make your own! smile.gif Good luck and let us know how it goes…

Hospice volunteering can be wonderful. Sometimes you do laundry, sometimes you rub a cancer patient's swollen feet, sometimes you do nothing, and sometimes you hold a little old lady's hand for an hour and hear about how she found out she was going to die. Like life, it's a mix of the mundane and the profound. One week I went in, walked around and checked on people, and realized that all the patients I knew wouldn't be there next time I came back. And sure enough, two weeks later, they were all gone. They sent me home that week because the only patient who wasn't dead or unresponsive was asleep, the kitchen was clean, and the laundry was done.
You learn a lot just from that.

hi seacatch
i grew up in suffolk county so i may be able to help. i am not sure which hospital you have had a bad experience in, but i know there’s long island jewish in new hyde park and northshore health system in manhasset.
This linklists the hospitals in nassau and suffolk county. i’m not sure how well you know the LIRR yet but the port jefferson line which goes through northern nassau will drop you right at the edge of SUNY Stony brook. It’s a fairly small campus so you could get to the hospital fairly easily.
Hope this helps. Good luck!!
Melanie Hand