Thales

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Aug 4, 2008
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I'm having a heck of a time finding volunteer and shadowing opportunities. The only luck I've had so far was with a hospice, I had a little patient contact until they realized I had computer experience (which they needed) and immediately set me to work doing office work. Most of the patients/residents had families that didn't want a male volunteer working with their family even though I have a CNA certification and passed all the background screenings, I guess they have misgivings about a 25 year old male reading/talking to their lonely relatives for a few hours a day...

So I left my hospice gig and applied to volunteer at a local hospital. After some forward movement it stalled and I've gotten no where. They keep pushing back my start date for training... I was told that they don't have a lot of male volunteers, so I'm thinking my sex may have something to do with it. I have excellent work experience and references, an impeccable background (1 speeding ticket 3 years ago), CNA certified, AHA/RC BLS healthcare certified, and I'm flexible about my volunteering.

Then there's the doctor shadowing. I keep getting shot down. My PCP, my parent's PCP, assorted doctors of other specialties. It's frustrating. I never thought it would be this difficult to give my time and experience for free to organizations that claim they desperately need it. Does anyone have any suggestions? I've scoured the forum and web and gotten some decent advice but I feel like I'm running into a brick wall locally (~35 mile radius) largely because I'm a male.

Thanks!
 

DrMidlife

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I get that you're frustrated, but I think your perception of what's going on may be a problem.

Wherever you are, half the premeds are male.

People over 40 can't usually tell the difference between an 18 year old and a 25 year old male.

I'm pretty sure that 100% of the patients in that hospice aren't female. Are you taking one comment out of context?

Your time and effort is less desperately needed by hospitals than your med school app desperately needs clinical experience.

Hospitals sometimes need 3 months or more of lead time to get orientation organized.

My point: clinical experience is not about you.

Best of luck to you.
 

MedPR

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Keep trying. I called 15 DO offices today to find out if I could shadow. 5 made up some excuse about how their hospital has a policy against it (even though other doctors from the same hospital at least took down my information to get back to me), 3 flat out said no, 3 sent me on what will probably be a never ending trail of paperwork and approval procedures, and the other 4 say they will call me back.
 
OP
Thales

Thales

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I'm pretty sure that 100% of the patients in that hospice aren't female. Are you taking one comment out of context?
No, I'm not. And of the 5 patients I've had assigned 5 of them were female, and out of the Alzheimer's/Dementia ward in which I was volunteering I saw mostly women in there. The one comment I'm referring to is the one directed at me by a patient's family. The volunteer coordinator has expressed similar sentiments by other families. I worked with 2 patients whose families weren't around and therefore couldn't object. The other 3 I had assigned were quickly taken off my list; one family objected to my face the day I tried to volunteer, the other two objected to the volunteer coordinator and I was given weak excuses for one and a direct no from another.

Your time and effort is less desperately needed by hospitals than your med school app desperately needs clinical experience.
True. I was under the impression they needed volunteers given their flyers on campus, presentations at health fairs on campus, and initial enthusiasm at sending me an application. This is a smaller hospital in the country which doesn't see a lot of volunteering other than the elderly.

Hospitals sometimes need 3 months or more of lead time to get orientation organized.
Okay, fair enough. I've been waiting for about 2 months. I can wait longer. I've been told orientation occurs first Monday of every month, we'll see what June holds.

My point: clinical experience is not about you.
Very valid point. I wasn't aware that I was making it about me by simply expressing frustration at not being able to freely give my time to organizations which are in need. I'm slightly confused though, are you asserting that by wanting to volunteer but being unable to I'm turning it into a selfish endeavor?

Best of luck to you.
Thanks! Hoping something pans out. I contacted the ARC to see what opportunities are available. What I'm seeing in this area is mostly elderly individuals volunteering because they're retired. I've been told by the hospice volunteer coordinator and hospital coordinator that I'm the youngest individual other than a few HS scholarship students that have applied.
 

TriagePreMed

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Keep trying. I called 15 DO offices today to find out if I could shadow. 5 made up some excuse about how their hospital has a policy against it (even though other doctors from the same hospital at least took down my information to get back to me), 3 flat out said no, 3 sent me on what will probably be a never ending trail of paperwork and approval procedures, and the other 4 say they will call me back.
My friend and I once called 30 Osteopathic physicians. Out of them, 1 was willing to meet for coffee and 1 was willing to allow shadowing. It's pretty bad.

OP, I don't know in what part of the country you live in, but as a male, I've had no problem finding volunteer positions, although I did have to deal with taking forever to start my hospital routine. I would suggest you start venturing out of straight up patient contact type of volunteer and accept positions in shelters, tutoring services, etc. Also, learn to stand your ground. Tell the hospice you have no intention to do volunteer work involving computers. You are interested in human interactions. If they can't play ball, move on.

EDiT: Out of curiosity, does the hospice work involve you taking patients to the bathroom or showering them? I'm guessing that's what many families might think. You can be straight up to a family that says they don't like it "I understand, and if it offends you, I am glad to stop. However, I want you to know my duties are just to read to them and bring things. I do not take them to the bathroom or clean them."
 

DrMidlife

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No, I'm not. And of the 5 patients I've had assigned 5 of them were female, and out of the Alzheimer's/Dementia ward in which I was volunteering I saw mostly women in there. The one comment I'm referring to is the one directed at me by a patient's family. The volunteer coordinator has expressed similar sentiments by other families. I worked with 2 patients whose families weren't around and therefore couldn't object. The other 3 I had assigned were quickly taken off my list; one family objected to my face the day I tried to volunteer, the other two objected to the volunteer coordinator and I was given weak excuses for one and a direct no from another.
If this is about race, then that just blows and I don't know what to say.

I encourage you to consider that families and dying loved ones always win. There's no contest. Your needs aren't anywhere near the decision process. If I were denied access to patient care by families in a hospice, and it wasn't stupid racist bullcrap, I'd really, really want to know why. I'd see if I could get somebody at the facility to clue me in to whether there's something under my control that I could do differently. Am I too boisterous? Do I talk too much? Can I figure this out by observing what the other caregivers are doing? Point being, what does it take to be part of a caring environment for the dying? What can I learn that would help in all-too-common future situations as a physician, where families have to deal with dying and death?

Maybe you're already doing that.
I wasn't aware that I was making it about me by simply expressing frustration at not being able to freely give my time to organizations which are in need. I'm slightly confused though, are you asserting that by wanting to volunteer but being unable to I'm turning it into a selfish endeavor?
I'm jaded after working with hordes of premeds who expect to be treated like doctors and don't like to work.

You're a CNA, so you'll have an earlier "value add" than a lot of fresh newbies. Just keep in mind that it takes funding and management oversight to run a volunteer program - it takes a volunteer coordinator and insurance and training and materials. After you've worked at a facility for several months, if you're a hard worker, it starts being a service you're providing, where the nurses are glad to have you around, and will help connect you with the physicians who are more willing to take on shadows. Etc.
Thanks! Hoping something pans out. I contacted the ARC to see what opportunities are available. What I'm seeing in this area is mostly elderly individuals volunteering because they're retired. I've been told by the hospice volunteer coordinator and hospital coordinator that I'm the youngest individual other than a few HS scholarship students that have applied.
Hmm. Where are the other college kids going? Is there a big public hospital with a busy ER? Is there a VA hospital?

Please post back with what you find - I know you're not the only one who hits this wall.
 
OP
Thales

Thales

C8H10N4O2
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Aug 4, 2008
145
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'Murica
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My friend and I once called 30 Osteopathic physicians. Out of them, 1 was willing to meet for coffee and 1 was willing to allow shadowing. It's pretty bad.

OP, I don't know in what part of the country you live in, but as a male, I've had no problem finding volunteer positions, although I did have to deal with taking forever to start my hospital routine. I would suggest you start venturing out of straight up patient contact type of volunteer and accept positions in shelters, tutoring services, etc. Also, learn to stand your ground. Tell the hospice you have no intention to do volunteer work involving computers. You are interested in human interactions. If they can't play ball, move on.

EDiT: Out of curiosity, does the hospice work involve you taking patients to the bathroom or showering them? I'm guessing that's what many families might think. You can be straight up to a family that says they don't like it "I understand, and if it offends you, I am glad to stop. However, I want you to know my duties are just to read to them and bring things. I do not take them to the bathroom or clean them."
Appreciate the advice. I'm going to try to do anything I can. I'm going to be doing Bio tutoring this next semester at school. Also, I'm in NW Florida. Smaller town.
 
Mar 27, 2012
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1
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What about the doctors at the hospice where you volunteered? Have you approached them? Could you offer to shadow them while they're doing rounds/seeing patients at the hospice?

One of the benefits (for me) of being non-traditional has been that I've happened to meet quite a few doctors. All of them have been more than happy to let me shadow.
 
OP
Thales

Thales

C8H10N4O2
10+ Year Member
Aug 4, 2008
145
61
'Murica
Status
Pre-Medical
If this is about race, then that just blows and I don't know what to say.

I encourage you to consider that families and dying loved ones always win. There's no contest. Your needs aren't anywhere near the decision process. If I were denied access to patient care by families in a hospice, and it wasn't stupid racist bullcrap, I'd really, really want to know why. I'd see if I could get somebody at the facility to clue me in to whether there's something under my control that I could do differently. Am I too boisterous? Do I talk too much? Can I figure this out by observing what the other caregivers are doing? Point being, what does it take to be part of a caring environment for the dying? What can I learn that would help in all-too-common future situations as a physician, where families have to deal with dying and death?

Maybe you're already doing that.
I completely understand, and I've tried reaching out to find out why. The volunteer coordinator I had typically sugar coated things but the typical response, if I received one, was "They prefer a female volunteer for their relatives". The two patients that I had really altered my perspective on the volunteer experience. Walking in I was focused on what I could take away and how the experience would benefit me in the future, after the first visit it became focused on what I could do in the short time I was with them that would benefit them. The two individuals I was able to work with were fairly incoherent (they were in the Alzheimer's/Dementia Ward) but they were always thankful just to have someone sit in the room with them. It's typically all I did, bring them something handmade by other volunteers (blanket, door sign) and just sit nearby and listen to them talk... interjecting with conversation from time to time.

I'm jaded after working with hordes of premeds who expect to be treated like doctors and don't like to work.
I imagine that is pretty common. I know a pre-med student who walks around with a higher-than-thou attitude, but didn't know a thing about the process of becoming a doctor. I guess I'm just frustrated that I can't find the opportunity to work. I don't expect to be treated as anything but a volunteer there to do whatever they need me to do.

You're a CNA, so you'll have an earlier "value add" than a lot of fresh newbies. Just keep in mind that it takes funding and management oversight to run a volunteer program - it takes a volunteer coordinator and insurance and training and materials. After you've worked at a facility for several months, if you're a hard worker, it starts being a service you're providing, where the nurses are glad to have you around, and will help connect you with the physicians who are more willing to take on shadows. Etc.
Definitely will, I appreciate the insight. I'll try to be persistent.

Hmm. Where are the other college kids going? Is there a big public hospital with a busy ER? Is there a VA hospital?
To be honest, most of the pre-medical students at my school don't really volunteer. I suppose it's because we're a small college. There's a larger university nearby that arranges opportunities for their pre-professional students at hospitals and doctors offices.

Please post back with what you find - I know you're not the only one who hits this wall.
I'm going to really dig in the rest of the week and next to find something, I'll post back with what results I have and any beneficial advice I am given.

Thanks!
 

hopeful22213

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Oct 12, 2011
185
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I think the key is looking for places a little off the beaten track. I struggled finding opportunities at the major hospitals nearby at first before expanding my search. Places like long term care facilities, nursing homes and especially the V.A if one is near you tend to be much more receptive. If you are reasonable distance of a va hospital, that's what I'd suggest first.

Shadowing is a much more difficult proposition, and the docs I ended up with came from asking a ton of family and friends if they knew anyone who might let me. Just give it time and keep up the search, you'll find something.
 

yossarian444

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I don't understand - why volunteer at all to get healthcare experience? With your CNA license, look for part-time jobs at nursing home, hospice, rehab facility, hospital, etc.. Aren't there a lot of nursing homes in FL given it is a retirement destiation state? As an actual employee rather than a volunteer, you'd be covered under their malpractice insurance and you'll be doing a TON of actual hands-on patient care instead of the hands-off stuff volunteers usually get assigned. Once you're an employee at a healthcare facility, use contacts there to set up meaningful shadowing opportunities.

I worked as a CNA on weekends prior to medical school - hardest job of my life - way harder than any rotation in medical school. I feel the experience helped me a ton in getting in - it shows strong dedication to slave away being a CNA.
 
OP
Thales

Thales

C8H10N4O2
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Aug 4, 2008
145
61
'Murica
Status
Pre-Medical
I don't understand - why volunteer at all to get healthcare experience? With your CNA license, look for part-time jobs at nursing home, hospice, rehab facility, hospital, etc.. Aren't there a lot of nursing homes in FL given it is a retirement destiation state? As an actual employee rather than a volunteer, you'd be covered under their malpractice insurance and you'll be doing a TON of actual hands-on patient care instead of the hands-off stuff volunteers usually get assigned. Once you're an employee at a healthcare facility, use contacts there to set up meaningful shadowing opportunities.

I worked as a CNA on weekends prior to medical school - hardest job of my life - way harder than any rotation in medical school. I feel the experience helped me a ton in getting in - it shows strong dedication to slave away being a CNA.
I've tried that as well. There are a TON of openings in the area, unfortunately they require paid experience. It's been frustrating as my original intention when I paid to take a training class and become state certified was to do just that; gain experience while working.
 

yossarian444

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I've tried that as well. There are a TON of openings in the area, unfortunately they require paid experience. It's been frustrating as my original intention when I paid to take a training class and become state certified was to do just that; gain experience while working.
Boy that sucks. But do keep looking though for jobs even if it seems hopeless now - nursing homes have incredibly high turnovers for CNA's and eventually you might run into one desparate for anybody. If you can track them down, try talking to the instructors of your CNA course - they should know of places that hire people without experience. Perhaps they can help.
 

katiemaude

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Apr 5, 2010
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I want to encourage you to keep trying and to stay positive about it. I hit a lot of walls and it took me six months to *find* a suitable volunteer experience in a clinical setting, plus another three months to get through the approval, application and orientation process. I applied (paper application, follow-up email and phone calls) to three large hospital systems with volunteer programs and only heard back from one! In the end, I was very happy with the 1-1/2 years I spent volunteering weekly in a hospital emergency department. I learned and saw a lot, and I hope I made some patients' days a little brighter and the staff's jobs a little smoother.

I hit similar obstacles when I started looking for work in a clinical setting. I applied, again, to the three large hospital systems in my area. Again, I never heard back from two (including the place where I volunteered!) after multiple job applications and leaving messages with HR and personal references at the place I volunteered. Was it my age? My appearance? My application? Bad luck? I don't know. I think I tweaked my resume and cover letters a few times, but finally after six months of hearing nothing, I was invited to take a skills assessment test, and then invited to a group interview, and then a private interview, and two months after THAT, got to go through background checks and a physical exam and immunizations and three months of training! I'm not even a CNA like you are! I get to draw blood, perform EKGs and bladder scans, d/c foley catheters, test blood sugar levels, collect urine and poop specimens, lift and transfer, and bathe/feed/take care of patients of all ages and it is gross and awesome and physically and emotionally exhausting and 100% worth it. I get paid crap and I love it.

Three years after I started trying to get practical experience (and meanwhile, going to school and taking the MCAT and shadowing), I finally got where I wanted to go. I remember thinking it would be so easy to land the job I have currently, and maybe it is for some people, but I have to think there was a reason I was sent on the longer route.

As for the shadowing, I used connections although of the distant variety - a specialist who treats my parents, and a primary care doc who is the sibling of my friend's fiance. I would suggest going a step away from your personal physicians but not as far as cold calling (I hear that works, too, but the hit rate is lower).

Best of luck to you and please don't give up!!! :)