ER volunteering: Good for interaction with MDs/Nurses?

Sep 17, 2010
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I am trying to choose which area of a hospital I will volunteer in. I am leaning towards the ER but wanted to get your opinion on something. Is this a good area for meeting Drs and nurses. I just want to make sure I select an area where I will get to interact with health professionals and get to observe them. Are there any other areas that you could suggest besides an ER, which would be best to accomplish my goals of interaction with these professionals?

Mac
 

emc0105

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May 12, 2009
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It depends on your position and what tasks you are expected to perform, as well as what you're willing to put into it. The doctors and nurses in the ER are usually busy and aren't going to go out of their way to talk to you, with a few exceptions. Also if you're expected to do things like transport patients or stock shelves the major interaction you have are with people giving you orders to do things.

That being said, I've volunteered for two years in an ER and I love it. You get to see a variety of procedures and I've found most of the doctors to be very receptive to me shadowing them. Initially though, I had to approach them and ask if I could shadow. If you think that you are comfortable and confident enough to approach physicians and nurses and express your interest in medicine without bothering them then it's a great place to be.
 

BF2BC EMT

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Aug 1, 2010
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I am trying to choose which area of a hospital I will volunteer in. I am leaning towards the ER but wanted to get your opinion on something. Is this a good area for meeting Drs and nurses. I just want to make sure I select an area where I will get to interact with health professionals and get to observe them. Are there any other areas that you could suggest besides an ER, which would be best to accomplish my goals of interaction with these professionals?

Mac
ER is the best spot, where I volunteered at all pre meds/PA's went into ER and all nurses went to floors. Its kind of awkward approaching a Dr. in the ER because they're pretty busy, so whenever you chose to make a move make sure they aren't busy. Even though you have no real reason to shadow nurses, it can be a benefit as they might allow you to see some cool things and can open the door to reaching an MD. But you will most likely start off making beds, getting pt.s water/blankets etc, and work your way up. Just my opnion and what I saw at the hospital I volunteered at. Good luck
 

SoundofSilver

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I am trying to choose which area of a hospital I will volunteer in. I am leaning towards the ER but wanted to get your opinion on something. Is this a good area for meeting Drs and nurses. I just want to make sure I select an area where I will get to interact with health professionals and get to observe them. Are there any other areas that you could suggest besides an ER, which would be best to accomplish my goals of interaction with these professionals?

Mac
Take this with a grain of salt, but there were essentially zero opportunities to interact with health professionals when i volunteered in the ER of a major teaching hospital. I was bored out of my mind most days, and after organizing the wheel chairs, I often struggled to find things to do even after constantly asking nurses how I could help out. Out of four or five different areas in the hospital that I volunteered at, the ER was probably the worst.

As a volunteer, there really isn't much you're going to be able to do. The best gig in my opinion is one that allows you to spend time with patients meaning just keeping them company. The doctors and most nurses for that matter aren't going to have the time or desire to get to know you.

Again, this is from my experience. Perhaps things will be different where you volunteer. Good luck!
 

Longshanks

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Its going to be very dependent on the hospital and how they run their operation. In some hospitals volunteers are simply couriers, gophers, or escorts. Others allow you to participate more. At a large teaching hospital that I worked in the ER at, I saw volunteers didn't do much. They tended to be high school students or early pre-med students that just BS'd and we'd call over if we needed someone to carry paper work somewhere or if one of the support staff were on break and we needed someone to carry a lab specimen to a lab.

Just a warning, so you know. At other places it can be a rewarding experience and very educational. You'll have to see what tasks they have you perform and if you enjoy it after you start.
 

Anastasis

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If you're going to volunteer in the EC, I suggest you NOT do it in a teaching hospital. The docs will already have an entourage of residents and med students following them around so there will be less opportunity for you to observe.

On the other hand, people going into EM tend to be laid back (in general, there are always exceptions) so they might be more willing to let you shadow and see how they work.

On a side note, I always felt like hospital volunteering was just a check box you needed to fill to get into medical school. If you really want to DO something, find a small free clinic that needs grunt work. That's what I did and I got to do a lot more than I ever got to do with hospital volunteering.
 

apumic

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As Anastasis mentioned, small free clinics are MUCH better volunteer sites if you want to really learn much of anything. Get into the right clinic and they may even allow you to help out w/o a cert. I Regularly precept pre-health (incl. premed, pre-PA, etc.) students so they can get some clinical experience at the clinic where I volunteer w/o needing their cert (they simply work under my, the charge RN's, and the MD's licenses with close 1:1 supervision and are quite limited in what they do).

In the ED, it will vary by hospital but you should never expect more than transport and stocking. You might occasionally be allowed to help with vitals in Triage but even that's often reserved for techs.
 

wlee43

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Volunteering in the ER is pretty boring. All you get to do is stack linens and stuff and most of the time you walk around feeling really useless
 

thedoctor8706

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Take this with a grain of salt, but there were essentially zero opportunities to interact with health professionals when i volunteered in the ER of a major teaching hospital. I was bored out of my mind most days, and after organizing the wheel chairs, I often struggled to find things to do even after constantly asking nurses how I could help out. Out of four or five different areas in the hospital that I volunteered at, the ER was probably the worst.

As a volunteer, there really isn't much you're going to be able to do. The best gig in my opinion is one that allows you to spend time with patients meaning just keeping them company. The doctors and most nurses for that matter aren't going to have the time or desire to get to know you.

Again, this is from my experience. Perhaps things will be different where you volunteer. Good luck!
This, for the most part.

Although there were days in the ER when I was told over and over again I was appreciated. It was a good experience and good place to volunteer, just don't expect to watch a thoracotomy every five minutes like they do on tv.
 

BenUstudent

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Take this with a grain of salt, but there were essentially zero opportunities to interact with health professionals when i volunteered in the ER of a major teaching hospital. I was bored out of my mind most days, and after organizing the wheel chairs, I often struggled to find things to do even after constantly asking nurses how I could help out. Out of four or five different areas in the hospital that I volunteered at, the ER was probably the worst.

As a volunteer, there really isn't much you're going to be able to do. The best gig in my opinion is one that allows you to spend time with patients meaning just keeping them company. The doctors and most nurses for that matter aren't going to have the time or desire to get to know you.

Again, this is from my experience. Perhaps things will be different where you volunteer. Good luck!
Same here, I would be interact with the custodians and PCT's, since I was cleaning rooms, restocking (they liked that). Then a few RN's would order stuff like "can you please call in Pt. X into Rm. #", or can you please Wheel out Pt. X." but at least they said thank you eventually when I saw them later.
I overall liked it, but the Docs were always busy with pts., reading charts, x-rays, on the phone, ect.
The most I was able to say was "Hi" as they hurry to the next room.
 

jesse120

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I've volunteered in the emergency department, pharmacy, floors, endoscopy, and surgical center. I had the most nurse interaction in endoscopy (and had a blast!) and most patient interaction in the ED. I actually got to help out a bit in the ED, but don't expect to, I was just lucky. My doctor interaction from volunteering in the hospital was practically zero. I got that experience from shadowing. In terms of volunteering, just mix it up and experience different areas of the hospital -- don't worry about getting doctor interaction because it's unlikely to happen. MAKE SURE to shadow at some point. I didn't ask docs in the hospital to shadow them. I asked my PCP, he said yes, and then the doors opened and I shadowed his colleagues as well. Hope this helps. Good luck!
 
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