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Best hospital volunteering position for patient contact?

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by Ricegrad05, Jan 7, 2009.

  1. Ricegrad05

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    Can anybody recommend a good one that's still clinical? I've volunteered in radiology, the PACU, and the OR in a trauma center and I've seen some interesting things, but most of the patients I've seen have been anesthetized or in no condition to talk. I'm applying this cycle.

    Thanks.
     
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  3. DrMidlife

    DrMidlife has an opinion
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    Get in the ER at a public hospital. That'll do it.
     
  4. PharMed2016

    PharMed2016 Eternal Scholar
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    Agreed, the ER is probably best for patient contact. I work in an direct admissions unit, and I have found it helpful for clinical exposure.
     
  5. computerdorkdan

    computerdorkdan Cool dude
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    See if there's a patient relations group around.

    I did something called Patient Rep where I went and talked to admitted patients after they'd been in the hospital for a few days. The idea was to make sure their families knew the basics of getting parking validated and whatever random stuff you could think of. Generally people were bored and wanted to talk which was cool. Got some crazies and many just didn't care but there was several who really made the experience worthwhile.
     
  6. MSmentor018

    MSmentor018 Hooah!
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    yeah you've chosen the top 3 places with no pt contact...that are at least awake to respond. definitely do ER. I always let the volunteer/red cross folks interact. it actually helps the medical staff more than you think. the nurses will love you for it.
     
  7. wepio

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    At my local hospital, there is a position where volunteers go around and ask admitted patients if there is anything they can do to make them more comfortable. These types of positions will provide ample opportunity to interact with patients. Sometimes you'll be getting them water, blankets, reading material; other times they might just want someone to talk to. Ask is there is a position like that, if that's somthing you're interested in.
     
  8. FrkyBgStok

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    i volunteered at the pediatrics unit and it was just going room to room asking if there was anything they needed. every once in awhile there was some lonely 16y kid needing someone to play video games with.
     
  9. J ROD

    J ROD Watch my TAN walk!!
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    ER or Urgent Care
     
  10. combatwombat

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    i spent a few months volunteering in a ER in Boston and was a total 5th wheel. Almost everything you'd imagine a volunteer doing could not be done either for legal or medical reasons. All I could do was offer drinks to patients' family members and pass out blankets to patients that wanted them (few did since it was summer). Most patients were in too much discomfort to want to talk. I saw some interesting things, but mostly just got in the way.

    I suppose volunteering in an ER looks good on paper but I'd recommend looking elsewhere, if possible. Just my $0.02
     
    #9 combatwombat, Jan 7, 2009
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2009
  11. J ROD

    J ROD Watch my TAN walk!!
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    I do almost everything the ER techs do. I have found it a good experience.
     
  12. Crelal

    Crelal So close, yet so far away...
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    I am currently volunteering in an ER and love it!

    I get to take vitals, transport patients, ask questions (less with it is busy, more when it is not), vision checks, set up for sutures, etc.

    There have been full-blown codes in the entry-way, seemingly healthy people needing transplants, open fractures, pysch patients with thoughts fixed on illnesses... such a wide variety of learning experiences.

    There is a constant battle between HR and ER as to what I am allowed to do. ER says more, HR says less. This has subsided substantially though, as it's official: c/o 2013!

    (And, I know the ER has given me a lot to discuss with interviewers... good luck!)
     
  13. yokurutu

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    J~DUB,

    you do almost everything ER techs do as a volunteer?
    EKG,bloodwork,monitoring,suture setups,other exams?
     
  14. Newmanium

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    This has been my experience as well - in my case, I'm the only volunteer in the hospital when I go (evenings), so I wander around to the medical wards and help them out with restocking stuff if they need it when I'm bored (it's kind of interesting to wander a mostly empty hospital at night).

    I think it depends on the hospital how much you can do. At mine (described by their doctors as a "Country Club") - not much. I restock some things, get drinks for people, chat with a few, and otherwise just watch what happens. At our local teaching hospital, it's even worse - the only available assignment is on research where you sit in a back room and only see patients occasionally. Even if you can't do a lot *with* the patients, at least make sure you can walk around on the unit and watch what's going on.

    I'm surprised at how boring the ER can be on many nights in a suburban setting. Most are old people with internal complaints. Very rarely is anybody bloody or in need of immediate attention. Still, I deliberately picked what I thought would be a "boring" ER - figured it'd give me the best chance to see the ho-hum side of medical care. I'd rather get a realistic picture of what I hear medicine can be like (i.e. often routine and boring) than get enamored with the intensity of a trauma-heavy ER.

    For patient contact - ER seems definitely like the best bet.
     
  15. J ROD

    J ROD Watch my TAN walk!!
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    I have not done blood work. I have taken samples to the lab!
     
  16. Crelal

    Crelal So close, yet so far away...
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    It seems like it totally depends on the hospital... the one I volunteer in is actually not the largest in the area, it is the smallest.

    I put in volunteer apps at all the local hospitals, and not only was it the first to get back to me, they had the most open attitude towards volunteers, so that was how I decided. (It also took the large trauma center, like two months to contact me after the app and several phone calls, so not sure how excited they are by the concept anyway!)
     
  17. COMedic2Doc

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    I would personally visit the departments where you are interested in applying before getting too high of hopes here. I spent four years as a Tech in the ER. Due to legal reasons, we were not able to allow our Volunteers to do much in the ER beyond providing blankets, helping with restocking, walking a patient to the restroom, bringing family back to the ER, etc. So, please take caution in the advice that you receive from here regarding what you can do as a Volunteer especially in the ED. This seems to vary a lot throughout the country so I would personally recommend contacting your local hospital and figuring out the scope of practice that you will be allowed to do as a Volunteer, especially in the day and age we live in of malpractice suits, HIPPA, etc. Also, I worked for a Level II Trauma Center which was exceptionally busy, and was great for being able to experience ER in real life but we didn't allow the Volunteers to do much, in fact one was almost dismissed from the ER for trying to get involved too much. You might find shadowing physicians to provide more "patient contact" as a non-healthcare provider.
     
  18. theraball

    theraball Panned
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    I volunteered at an MS infusion outpatient clinic. People sat in chairs getting 3-4 hour steroid/chemo infusions and my job was to bring them coffee and juice, candy, crackers, blankets, take vital signs, refill the drinks, etc.

    A lot of the time people were bored to tears so they would want to chat. My first day I met a fellow who really liked to talk, and we talked for an hour or more. I asked the nurses if this was really OK, just to stand there for an hour, and they said it was great because they don't have time to chat.

    One gal came in who had just been diagnosed the previous week and I could tell she was devastated, but keeping up a brave appearance. We had a very nice conversation. I would tend to see the same faces because I usually worked on the same day each week, and they would come in like every four weeks usually on the same day.

    I didn't have much contact with the docs, most of whom stayed in their offices doing research and didn't really wander much into the infusion area. For a while they let us volunteers sit in on their weekly research luncheon/discussion, but then they decided to kick us out which was a total bummer. I was surprised at a couple of my younger fellow volunteers who preferred to just sit and read when not passing out the candy. I guess they felt uncomfortable engaging with sick strangers.

    But overall it was just an amazing experience, listening to people share their stories of their illness. You can do a lot worse than an infusion clinic. Other good ways to get pt contact would be wheelchair pushing (Transport Services or similar), ambassador (standing at the front counter to help show people around, or liaison positions where you basically run back and forth from the pt in the recovery unit to their families in the waiting areas, or bringing magazines to people in rooms.

    Try not to focus so much on those imaginary super-medical gigs that you hear about on these chatboards. That's not what premedical volunteering is all about and most premeds don't practice any medicine. You'll get plenty of clinical experience when you're in clinical med and rotations. What you really need now is to learn how to relate to patients, how to listen to them, and to learn about yourself--can I handle this kind of emotionality all day? Can I help someone with a urine bag? Can I listen to a cognitively impaired person and maintain good boundaries?
     
  19. murfettie

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  20. nontrdgsbuiucmd

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    Concur, I'd been in PACU and ER and dropped the PACU assignment b/c every patient was anesthetized (sp?), the patient to nurse ratio was 2:1 leaving me little to do related to assisting patients, and most of what I did assisted the medical staff rather than anything related to patient contact. Which was OK, but I was seeking more patient contact.

    Something to add to the ER -- I often felt like a 5th wheel, and I'm very comfortable asking to participate, sitting in on a new situation, and integrating myself into a group. It took around 2-3 months weekly volunteer work to be fairly "integrated" into the ER, where I knew most of the staff, they knew me, and I'd be asked to do interesting things. I was told by an adcomm that typically it takes 6+ months for a volunteer assignment to really become valuable in this way, so be patient!

    My take was that, maybe 1x per hour, I'd see something or do something that was interesting - observe a procedure, assist with some patient medical issue, etc. the rest of the time it was blankets, juice, and communicating w/family members. Once I got integrated, one or two of the docs would allow me to observe more, do more. Sometimes it was just "right time/right place", and I could assist in restraining a patient, or holding a broken arm in place so that it could be bandaged properly. but this was maybe 3% of all of my time spent in the ER.
     

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