I have been volunteering in the ED once a week since the end of April. Honestly, I’m not too fond of it. I love volunteering, but I hate feeling like I’m in the way and just doing random busy work. Given the high speed of the ED the nurses treat the volunteers poorly as well which isn’t a huge deal, but doesn’t put me in the best of moods either. I like my volunteering to help the staff and make a difference, I honestly I don’t feel I’m much use to the ED staff. Would it be a bad idea to switch departments and volunteer in surgery scheduling/admission or something more structured? I am very self motivated, but I feel like having more set responsibilities would make me happier. Also, I volunteer my time to various organizations doing virtual research and health blogging to name a few, will this type of volunteering be considered once I apply to medical school? I will continue to do it either way because I enjoy it, but I’m just curious. Also, what are the thoughts on non-health related volunteering? I like to volunteer to fit my interests, so what about volunteering at museums and the like? I’m a long ways away from applying, but I’d like to have plenty of volunteering and job shadowing experiences. Thanks!

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but the majority of your learning career you are going to be in the way of Doctors, it’s how it goes. I know the feeling very well, I get to volunteer in the PACU at the hospital I volunteer at and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt more like a hindrance than anything else. But it’s apart of the game and learning for me I guess.

I don’t think it would be a bad idea for you to switch it up and see how you feel, I would just advise you to not get discouraged. If a nurse didn’t want you there, they wouldn’t have you there.

The online stuff I am skeptical about, I’m not sure that med schools will take that into account, but you’d have to ask someone with more experience than I.

My advice to you as a volunteer in the ED is to NOT advertise you are pre-med unless you’re being humble about it and it is mentioned in passing. We had a volunteer in the ED that advertised he was pre-med thought he knew more than us, the nurses, which never works. If you want to do more, maybe you should become a tech. Other than that, you really can’t do anything because it’s a legal thing; you are not licensed to touch a patient. That alone will inhibit your duties in an ED. We don’t even allow our EMT’s working as a tech to put IV’s in pts and that would be a tremendous help!

Also, remember that the ED is a very, very busy place for both the nurses and doc. I personally enjoy that pace, which is why I want to be an ED doc. If that’s no place for you, then at least you can strike that off your list of residences

My time in the ED isn’t my favorite, for all the reasons you list. Mostly, I just feel like I’m in the way–after I stock linen and supply cabinets, there’s only so much I can do! I’ll be switching to the NICU in the fall, but I still think it is time well spent.

The thing that saves my experience there? My hospital’s EMT techs are fantastic. The 2 I work with understand why I’m there, and they NEVER mind a shadow. They come find me if they are doing something interesting, and they let me help with EKG leads, etc. I hold the vials and bandaids and stand right over them while they do blood draws, etc… it always feels like fun to tag along with those guys.

I haven’t mentioned that I’m pre-med. In fact, until last week I was still going back and fourth on becoming a doctor. I’m not looking to draw blood or do other “medical” stuff as a volunteer. I don’t want to do “more” per se, but have actual duties instead.My ED is basically, find something/anything to do and stay out of the way. At this time, I walk around in a circle for 4 hours trying to find a trash can to empty or a cart to stock. Housekeeping gets mad that you are doing their job and when I tell a nurse her patient needs something, it’s always attitude, not thank you for letting me know.I am always super nice and professional and I’m really shocked that the staff is so rude, well I should clarify, the nurses are rude, the doctors and techs are great. The nurses are in charge of the volunteers at my hospital. I was just wondering if a different department would be good, answering phones, telling guests how much longer their loved one would be in surgery etc. Or switch hospitals altogether. I’m just trying to make jobs easier, but I don’t know how much more lack of respect I can handle. I don’t have an “I know all attitude,” I never mention anything medical to anyone or talk about anything else for that matter. I just want to help with anything anyone needs. Not sure what to do.

I’m so sorry you are having such a tough time in the ED

I’d soooooo welcome someone to follow me around for a shift while I explain what I do, why I’m doing it, etc., especially a pre-med buddy!! I move at a super fast pace so you’d have to put your running shoes on!!

Perhaps you can ask the nurse manager for a mentor to follow around for a couple hours. I know when I started in the ED, I had a terrible mentor who wouldn’t let me touch a patient and got confrontational when I asked her questions, etc. Some people are not natural teachers.

I mentioned the dude who was pre-med and drove us crazy. He even questioned the docs, which kicked him off the island very quick. Then we had a sweet PA student was amazing, open to what the nurses told the docs about the patients, open to what the doc said. We wanted her back!!

I wish you the best in which ever department you find. Ask the nurse manager which nurse is a good person to follow. Perhaps an ICU is a good place for you. Lots of learning there with vents, IV meds, etc.