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Emergency Room Volunteering

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by djfermion, Jun 24, 2008.

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  1. djfermion

    djfermion 2+ Year Member

    Jun 1, 2008
    Sorry guys, I'm sure this had been discussed plenty of times and I had read many of those threads, but I have a more specific question.

    I am going to be interviewing at a few hospitals that have emergency room volunteering positions available. Just so I know what to expect both in the interview and during volunteering, what exactly are the official responsibilities of working in the ER. Wheeling patients around, restocking stuff, changing sheets, visiting patients? I really have no clue what I'd be doing except "working in the emergency room." All insight would be greatly appreciated.

    Edit: One more quick question. Any suggestions for where to volunteer in Manhattan?
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2008
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  3. sglec

    sglec 5+ Year Member

    Oct 12, 2007
    omg...this is so funny cause i just came back from a volunteering orientation and im going to be working in the emergency room as well....
  4. rowerlauren

    rowerlauren 2+ Year Member

    Feb 3, 2008
    It completely depends upon the hospital. Where I work in the ER, volunteers don't really get much responsibility except for limiting who can go back with patients (secretarial work) and making sure visitors find their way around the ER. This ER is HUGE and commonly has ~100 patients at a time. The unspoken responsibilities are keeping everyone in the waiting rooms happy and getting them things (basic water, crackers, blankets, etc...) to entertain themselves. On the crazier days I am left dealing with all these people arguing with me about how they should be the next patient, etc... It can be very overwhelming and stressful all taht is going on in the front waiting room and they all seem to like to yell at me (the good thing is that I have learned through necessity how to handle very upset people).
    But this is for a very large level 1 trauma center... probably different were I in a smaller hospital.

    Since I have been there for a couple years and many people know me well they let me do a lot more than is typical. I generally have the opportunity to shadow Drs and help them in whatever measure is needed.
  5. fastdude400

    fastdude400 Italian Plumber 2+ Year Member

    Jan 20, 2008
    My ER volunteer experience was very similar. Volunteers just don't get to do much because of liability issues. I just talked to lonely patients, brought them things, and ran things around for nurses. The place I was at was also a Level 1 Trauma center, pretty large.

    It's definetly still a worthwhile experience though in my opinion. Don't let the fact that your responsibilities will be limited defer you from volunteering there.
  6. rowerlauren

    rowerlauren 2+ Year Member

    Feb 3, 2008
    ABSOLUTELY... although I didn't have much actual responsibility it was crazy and ridiculous and awesome. I learned more from working in such a busy crazy place about people than I have learned about medicine from shadowing.
  7. djfermion

    djfermion 2+ Year Member

    Jun 1, 2008
    Yea I was expecting most of those responses. The thing is they said they would place me depending on my interests as shown in the interview so I want to know what to say so that I don't give a fantastical answer, but still show my interest for the emergency room. Obviously I will mention I want the ER explicitly but other than that what are some key points so that they understand my intentions? "I want to be involved with..."
  8. nVictus

    nVictus MS1337 7+ Year Member

    Aug 20, 2007
    anyone else with ER experiences care to share?
  9. trustd1

    trustd1 Pressing on! 2+ Year Member

    Jun 19, 2008
    Chicago, IL
    I volunteered at a nonprofit hospital in a small city environment. My responsibilities were mainly the ones you listed. I agree with the previous posts. Though the responsibilities of an ER volunteer may be limited, there are still many things you can get out of the experience.

    Some things I got out of the experience was being able to converse with patients. Quite a number of patients do prefer having some company while they wait to be examined or released from the ER. I also learned how to operate some of the medical equipment by asking the nurses or technicians. The key is taking the initiative and talking with others.

    Of course, things may differ depending on the environment of the ER. The environment of the ER I volunteered at was not busy, so this gave me free time to interact with the patients and medical staff.

    For the interview, the interviewer reviewed what extracurriculars/experiences I had put and asked me to expand on some of them. It was very laid-back. Your interview probably won't be high pressure since it is only for a volunteer position.

    Wish you the best!
  10. RPedigo

    RPedigo Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    I loved my ER volunteering experience, but since our particular hospital was understaffed the volunteers played a pretty significant role. I've heard this isn't typical of most volunteering jobs, but my shifts were basically taking 12-lead EKGs, blood sugars, blood pressures, pulse/spO2, hooking them up to various machines, helping cut off clothing in traumas, helping prepare the trauma room for traumas, and observing them. It was pretty hectic, but it led to some crazy fourteen- and fifteen-hour shifts because there were so many patients.

    I've seen some pretty intense traumas including point-blank shotgun wounds, stabbings, traffic collisions, and various gunshot wounds with rifles and handguns. Definitely a section of the hospital that isn't for the faint of heart. If you're interested in Emergency Medicine (and I am) or interested in seeing a wider variety of cases than you would see in most other sections of the hospital or via shadowing a physician then I say go for it :thumbup:
  11. Rikkye

    Rikkye 7+ Year Member

    Oct 20, 2006
    I personally like my shadowing experience over my ER volunteer experience mainly because I dislike doing the ...... work at the ER even though that is the meaning of volumteering hahaha. Still I think the good thing that comes with working at the ER is you get to see insane cases on a daily basis. Good luck and have fun with stocking blanket (Hahaha I really hated that)
  12. nimbusadjust120

    nimbusadjust120 ~Singaporean~ 5+ Year Member

    Feb 5, 2008
    What is the name of the hospital?:confused: Sounds interesting and i want to volunteer there!:thumbup::thumbup::thumbup::)
  13. RPedigo

    RPedigo Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Riverside Community Hospital, about four miles from the University. It was pretty fun :). :thumbup:

    It was a year-long program where every three months you go into a new section of the hospital; first rotation is a nursing floor where you just bathe and feed patients, subsequent rotations are things like volunteering in the emergency department, the operating rooms, labor and delivery, ICU, or radiology or something like that.
  14. nimbusadjust120

    nimbusadjust120 ~Singaporean~ 5+ Year Member

    Feb 5, 2008
    I want to volunteer my service for FREE!! :) i loved everything!:D
  15. hermit

    hermit Senior Member 5+ Year Member

    May 30, 2006
    Applicants must enjoy watching paint dry.
  16. WilliamsF1

    WilliamsF1 2+ Year Member

    Jul 6, 2006
    I volunteer in a small community hospital ER. We can only hold 20 patients at a time, but it fits our needs on a busy Saturday (sometimes we're pushed and have to expand to pediatrics area, hahah).

    I do basics like replace linens off of stretchers, sterilize the stretcher, and put down new sheets (then if the soiled linen garbage bags get full, I replace them). Call up patients from the waiting room and take them to their bed. If a patients asks for food or water, I run it by the nurses to see if they can have it and then get what they can have. I keep the blanket warmer filled...and hand them out if a patient asks me.

    The more invovled stuff has me getting supplies for the nurses and doctors right when they need it. Blood tubes, flushes, slings, chucks, etc. I get to deliver some stuff to the lab if our tube system can't transport it. I also transport patients to their cars or to MRI, CT scan, ICU, or upstairs to their own room.

    Craziest thing I did was zip up a dead patient in a body bag a few weeks back. It was the third dead guy I saw there since I started back in November. The nurse tech put on the tag on his toe and I had to pull the body bag out from under him and zip it up. Then we wheeled him down to the morgue (only 8 trays in a giant room, all empty). Even slid him into the pan! Pretty fun.
  17. nerakium

    nerakium 2+ Year Member

    Jun 13, 2008
    I've worked in two different hospital ERs. In the first one, I was a volunteer, and all I was really supposed to do was clean the rooms (i.e. wipe everything down, change the linens, tidy up) and get patients things like blankets, water, meals, etc. However, I lucked out because one of the Techs thought I was an "intern" and let me watch some procedures. :p I was kind of bored with it because stocking and cleaning didn't require too much of my ability, brainpower, or time.

    In the second hospital, I was officially a premed "intern" and got to do a lot more. I worked Friday nights in the ER/level 1 trauma and got to do a bunch of things. This included acquiring 12-lead EKGs, hooking patients up to the monitors (pulse-ox, BP cuff, heart rate), cleaning and dressing wounds, taking vitals, assisting with suturing, and escorting and transporting patients. I got to help with intubation and also pumped the breathing bag :). I watched the insertion of IVs, chest tubes, central lines, and urinary catheters, x-ray and CT scans, and even some facial reconstructive plastic surgery. The traumas were always interesting... tons of drunk drivers and motor vehicle accidents (rollovers, people with cars falling on them, motorcycle accidents, ATV accidents) and gunshot wounds. This one guy came in with 7 holes in his chest! This other couple came in with twigs sticking out of their scalp because they had rammed into a tree on their ATV. Since I worked Friday nights, I had my fair share of crazy yelling drunk/drugged people rolling into the hospital at 3am needing restraints and police dogs. As an intern, I was lucky to have the freedom to wander around the ER and basically observe and do whatever I pleased. They encouraged me to jump in and help when patients came in via ambulance or helicopter. Some of the ER docs were especially nice to me, inviting me to do certain things and taking time to explain everything to me, while the patients sat there like :scared:? It was a great experience... I could go on and on!

    Among those things, there was still the ever-glamorous part which included cleaning beds, walking to the lab, stocking stuff, dealing with poop and pee and blood samples, getting spit, bled, and vomited on.

    Like someone else said, it really depends on the hospital and what they let the volunteers/premeds do. Generally, in an ER, it's all about your initiative and enthusiasm. Everyone's so busy that you could show up, sit in the corner for 8 hours, and no one would notice or give a crap. So find out what they will and won't let you do, push that to the limit, and basically show that you're really interested and willing to help with anything without crossing any lines. Good luck with your ER experience! :)
  18. djfermion

    djfermion 2+ Year Member

    Jun 1, 2008
    Thanks for all the help. Some of those stories sound awesome. Anybody have suggestions for where to volunteer in Manhattan if I want to do more than just clean rooms?
  19. Palam

    Palam 5+ Year Member

    Jul 8, 2010
    Just wanted to bump this in case anyone else had stories or advice. I too will be working the ER
  20. startswithb

    startswithb Future Urologist 7+ Year Member

    Jan 31, 2010
    Bumping because I just had my first night of ER volunteering last night. It was pretty intense. The tech that I was basically following around showed me how to draw blood, and I did it! (on him, not a patient) Anyone have any advice on how to make the most of the experience? Any stories?
  21. apumic

    apumic Oracle of the Sheet 7+ Year Member

    Jan 1, 2007
    Denver, CO
    Be proactive. Ask what you can do. Get to know the techs and nurses. Don't be annoying. Do things the first time you are told, every time you are told. Make yourself available. Get in and get dirty. Take advantage of any training that you might be offered. Be observant -- when a pt is brought back, what is the first thing the tech does? Now do it before they can! (I.e., if you see a pt that looks like s/he might get cold being brought back, grab a warm blanket and wait by the room for the tech to emerge, then ask if it's all right to give the blanket to the pt; if you notice that on the high acuity medical/trauma unit, pts always have their blood drawn and IVs inserted upon entry to the room and the IV/bloods cart is in each rm, check that the carts are properly stalked before the tech gets there; and so forth).
  22. common man

    common man 5+ Year Member

    Jun 22, 2009
    does this count as clinical experience? you can smell the patient...
  23. torshi

    torshi Squirrel 5+ Year Member

    Oct 26, 2010
    It gets really boring after a while. The main thing you do is clean up patient rooms and replace linen such as blankets etc. Also, you make the beds after a patient leaves. That's mostly what you do, then occasionally you wheel out a patient and other little things.

    The interview is nothing really. Dress up, most people who go to a volunteer interview don't dress up. When i went to the interview, they asked no questions, she mainly discussed the available times, what i want to do, gave me a badge etc all that good stuff.
  24. gettheleadout

    gettheleadout MS-3 Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

    Jun 22, 2010
    OP was back in 2008, Torshi. :p
  25. XeReX

    XeReX Aspiring Surgeon

    Jun 6, 2010
    New Haven, CT
    I am volunteering in a level 1 trauma center in CT, and i am part of two kind of volunteering positions. One is a research study that the hospital is conducting to reduce the fall risk among the ED patients. So my job is to go to fall risk patients and make sure that their needs are met, and that they are not prone to falling, making sure that all the preventive measures to reduce the fall risk have been taken care off. So i go in patient rooms and ask them questions like if they have a green bracelet on(green bracelets and, green triangles are to identify fall risk patients), and if they have been to the bathroom in the last hour or if they have a need to go to the bathroom at this moment, and then i have to jot down all those things on the data table for record. If they want anything or have any question i call the nurse in charge of that patient. Its an amazing experience and i get to talk to a lot of patients so its pretty awesome, but some times it can be stressful as some patients don't wanna talk as they are in pain or some patients yell at me and get angry.
    The other kind of volunteering is regular ED volunteering and i work for the family liaison representative and make sure that patients belongings have the patient's name sticker on them so that they don't get lost, i mean i don't get to do much but still its good clinical experience.
  26. cbzfmoc


    Aug 16, 2010
    Does Emergency Room volunteering actually count as legit clinical experience? I only do the basic stuff like transporting patients and delivering lab specimens
  27. apumic

    apumic Oracle of the Sheet 7+ Year Member

    Jan 1, 2007
    Denver, CO
    Nope. It's only clinical experience if you're actually doing the surgery...or at least the sutures at the end.

    J/K! Of course it counts. Sure, working as a tech is going to give you "better" stories but most premeds won't get any closer to pts than an ER volunteer.

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