neature

Adventure Enthusiast
Jun 28, 2016
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Pre-Medical
So after volunteering for a while at 3 hospitals, I thought I would compile a list of 10 tips for anyone looking to pursue a volunteer opportunity at a hospital, those who are just starting out on their volunteer journey, or anyone who may be looking to get more out of their volunteer experience:) (Note: I am just a sophomore undergrad student so I guess take my advice with a grain of salt;)). Feel free to chime in with other tips you have!

1. Find an opportunity you enjoy
You will get a lot more out of volunteering if you find something you are passionate about and look forward to doing. Most hospitals offer many different positions and departments where you can volunteer, so find one that you like. Don't be afraid to switch to a different position if you find out that your first one (or second) isn't a great fit. Volunteer coordinators can be an awesome resource and can help you find an opportunity that you can enjoy.

2. Bring a positive attitude to every shift
Don't be that pre-med student who looks like they don't want to be volunteering. While it may be difficult to be positive when you are bored, came from a long day of classes, or had to deal with a difficult patient or staff member, it really does make a big difference. Just remember that you are passionate about medicine and that volunteering allows you to gain valuable skills and knowledge that can help you along your path towards becoming a physician. A smile and a positive attitude goes a long way!

3. Be friendly
This is one of the most important things you can do as a volunteer. As a volunteer, you have the opportunity to improve the patient experience by simply bringing your smile to your shift, greeting guests with a warm welcome, and offering help as needed. Don't be afraid to initiate conversations! Volunteering is a great way to make connections with the staff as well. Introduce yourself and let them know (both verbally and through your actions) that you are there and willing to help. Once they get to know you, they might even ask you to do even more exciting things! Maybe you can even get a few shadowing opportunities out of it as well;)

4. Know your limits
It seems like common sense, but make sure that you understand your duties as a volunteer. Do not try to impress others by using all the medical knowledge you obtained from watching Grey's Anatomy to do something you are not supposed to do as a volunteer;) (unless you get permission to do so). If a patient asks you to help them with something you can't do, politely let them know that you are not trained to do so and explain that you would be happy to find someone who can help them. Also be aware that not all staff will know what the volunteers can and can't do, so you may have to politely decline if they ask you to do something that you are not trained to do.

5. Don't be afraid to ask questions
If you are ever unsure of what to do, always ask! You are much better off asking a stupid question rather than looking like an idiot for messing something up. If you volunteer at a nursing station, familiarize yourself with the HUC because they are always a great resource if you are unsure who to ask. As a volunteer, you have a great opportunity to learn from all of the staff and many are willing to answer your questions to help you learn. When in doubt, don't be afraid to ask it out!

6. Anticipate needs

See that visitor looking confused or at a hospital map? Ask if they need help finding something. See a nurse carrying lab specimens? Ask if they'd like you to bring it to the lab. You don't always need to wait for someone to approach you to help. Taking the initiative when it appears that someone could use a hand shows your willingness to help. Patients and staff appreciate it!

7. Be observant
As a volunteer, you are fortunate enough to get great exposure to the medical field. Even if you aren't asked to do exciting tasks, you can always be observant and learn from the environment around you. You can learn a lot about the interaction between doctors and patients and how the department works just by observing. You might even notice more areas that you can help with. Soak it all in!

8. Make the most of your experience
Most volunteer roles are very flexible and allow you some freedom. Don't be a volunteer who sits around your entire shift doing absolutely nothing. Be passionate and enjoy the experience! You get out what you put in, so don't be afraid to get your hands dirty and help out as much as you can. You can make it a valuable experience if you want to.

9. Know that you are making a difference

We all know that volunteers don't get to do the most exciting tasks. Most volunteers don't usually realize that they are making a difference for both the patients and staff. Event the smallest of tasks, like holding open the door for someone or greeting a patient with a smile, can really make a difference! The little things make a big difference.

10. Have fun!

Never forget that volunteering should be a fun experience for you! Find something you enjoy, be positive, and know that you are indeed helping others. Volunteering can get long and boring at times, but just realize that it can be a great experience and is helping you on your path to becoming a physician. And if you aren't having fun, you can always try something else! Volunteers are always needed.
 
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NimbleNavigator

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Mar 15, 2016
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So after volunteering for a while at 3 different hospitals
Sounds like you might have learned some of these lessons the hard way
 
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neature

neature

Adventure Enthusiast
Jun 28, 2016
21
8
Status
Pre-Medical
Sounds like you might have learned some of these lessons the hard way
There is a lot to be learned from observing some of the other not so great volunteers;). My wording made it sound like I've been a terrible volunteer (oops:p), but I haven't gotten kicked out yet and still volunteer at all 3 hospitals:)
 
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PB&Jam

2+ Year Member
Jan 14, 2016
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I got started in the volunteering department a bit late, but luckily I found an opportunity that I really enjoy on my first try. I chose to look for volunteer positions at a hospital where my grandmother goes for care. I have done fundraising for the ALS division of this hospital in the past, so I figured it would be the best place to look for volunteering. The volunteer coordinator was extremely kind and helpful, and placed me in a Therapeutic Recreation position at a satellite branch. While I don't directly assist with medical care, this position has been beyond amazing for learning how to interact with different kinds of patients (many are immobile/limited mobility and/or can't speak), and for developing a good rapport and bedside manner. I essentially get to spend a few hours/week playing games, chatting, and listening to music with these patients. Some speak Spanish, so I get to practice interacting with patients who speak another language (while I do speak Spanish, I'm nowhere near fluent). I agree with all of the above points, and think that volunteering is an amazing part of the pre-medical path :)
 
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neature

Adventure Enthusiast
Jun 28, 2016
21
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Pre-Medical
Would you like any water? Do you want ice with that? :laugh:
oh sorry you're NPO.
This could be a great start to a list of what not to do as a volunteer. Always ask a nurse or doctor before giving patients water, folks;)
 

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reports of my assimilation are greatly exaggerated
2+ Year Member
Apr 2, 2016
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Probably still at work
Also try to volunteer at lower income/high population density hospitals.

You see a lot more, learn a lot more, and understand how the whole system works a bit better (by seeing what is deficient due to lack of funding).