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Hospital volunteerism: does size matter?

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by NY Musicologist, May 11, 2005.

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  1. NY Musicologist

    NY Musicologist Career Changer 5+ Year Member

    Apr 1, 2005
    I'm about to put in applications for my first hospital volunteering experience. I have two choices, each with its own application:

    1. Strong Memorial Hospital, the main teaching hosp. of the Univ. of Rochester med school

    2. Highland Hospital, a smaller "community" hospital but still under the umbrella of the university medical group

    From what I've read on the forum so far, hospital volunteering can be a deeply mixed bag. My instinct is to go for the smaller institution, with the hope that they'll have fewer volunteers and I'll wind up getting to do more than just clerk the gift shop. However, will adcoms wonder why I didn't take the opportunity to put my time in at the region's major med center? Anything else I ought to consider? Thx for any/all input! :)
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  3. jaylily

    jaylily gilraen : wandering star 7+ Year Member

    Jul 10, 2003
    beefy alberta
    I think that just the fact that you're volunteering in a medical setting is enough. It's what you do that matters, not where you do it. And putting on your application that you volunteered for X amount of hours at a smaller hospital where you were able to interact more with patients would be much better than saying you did X amount of hours at Big Shiny Hospital where all you did was jockey the till in the gift shop.

    I say you go wherever you'll get the better experience!
  4. mshheaddoc

    mshheaddoc Howdy Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Apr 24, 2002
    Wild west of Mistytown
    Well I know sometimes teaching institutions have more structured programs and better "rotation" areas if you want to get a variety. But I'm with you. I was in a major teaching hospital "pre-med" program at Hospital of Pennsylvania (UPenn) and they ended up dropping me because I couldn't do their "time commitment" on their schedule. I asked if I could push back a few months. They stated they couldn't offer that to me and that I should have known what I was getting into. I was so pissed because I was trying to get limited exposure as it was and I was working fulltime in school for MBA full time while trying to volunteer EVERY sat morning. I couldn't do it so I asked to cut back to 2 times a month. That was a "no go" for the gunner premeds :smuggrin:

    So I say you might get more "basic" volunteer setting. Alot of time I actually did more at the bigger hospital because they had a "program" set up. I did volunteer a little at a regional hospital and it was boring. I did nothing but deliver water and sit around. I will volunteer again there (smaller) but I'm looking for other opportunities as well. Possibly paid.
  5. Doctobee

    Doctobee Member 5+ Year Member

    Mar 27, 2005
    What kind of volunteering do you want to do? ER? Then you probably better off in a larger hospital. I volunteered in a large teaching hospital, so I had a chance to interact with med students and residents. You are also more likely to find a replacement for your shift in case you can't make it.

    Why don't you ask the volunteering cooridinatord about their program size and organization?
  6. DianaLynne

    DianaLynne Catwoman! 5+ Year Member

    Sep 12, 2004
    Ann Arbor, MI
    I think it's also important to be in a setting where you get to observe the action! If you're in the gift shop, it's great that you're giving your time to the community but you're not going to watch the trauma team run a code. When I went to volunteer at my local hospital, I asked for something that would challenge my decision to study medicine. I ended up in the ICU and it's been amazing. NOBODY looks good in the ICU, they're close to death's door, they're in pain, frequently they can't move on their own, and they poop themselves a lot. My volunteering led to a job opportunity as a nurse's assistant and I've learned a lot, seen a lot. I believe part of the reason we are encouraged to spend significant time in health care settings is to find out if we know what medicine's about and that we've got the stomach for it. Plus the desire to help others!

    My $1/50th.
  7. booradley5

    booradley5 Go State! 5+ Year Member

    Nov 14, 2004
    Coral Springs, FL
    NY_Musicologist--You brought up a really interesting point that I had not considered at all. I agree with the general sentiment that quality over "name" is probably preferable in the long run. Thanks to all who've shared their experiences thus far. Keep 'em coming!

    As I prepare to attend post-bacc this fall at HES, I hadn't really thought too much about where I would volunteer just that I would start doing it after I get settled first semester. I'll be in Boston, after all, and volunteer opportunities I've heard are plentiful.

    However, as a result of this thread I started just casually looking and saw that the hospital in Salem, MA, where I will be living, has a volunteer program that is described as follows:

    "Operating Room Volunteer--
    Volunteer would have a variety of duties in this busy area. They would
    include the delivery of records, specimens and x-rays; making up stretchers;
    cleaning rooms and answering phones. A preferred applicant would be a mature
    high school Senior or college student with aspirations in the medical field."

    Sounds like a great opportunity, especially given that they recognize that you are there to learn something. Looks like they are looking for someone who is, ahem, a little younger than myself. Then again, it's in the community I am planning on living in and a lot shorter on the commute.

    So a couple questions--

    Do any of you non-trads have experiences of being looked upon differently by hospital staff/physicians who expect volunteers to be of the less-seasoned variety?

    Being in Boston, do you think it's worth it to go for the bigger "name" volunteer program that is likely of high quality, say at Brigham-Women's or Beth Israel, or the local, but smaller program?

  8. irishlaydi

    irishlaydi Senior Member 5+ Year Member

    Jun 27, 2004
    Hi fellow rochesterian! I am actually moving soon, but saw your post and wanted to comment. I too had my 1st hospital volunteer experience at a hospital in Rochester. I chose Strong just because I thought they would have more positions available. Luckily I found what I wanted (pediatrics). I would suggest Strong Memorial 1st and if they don't have anything that sounds good say you will get back to them, and check out Highland. The interview to volunteer is very informal and the woman is really nice. I actually just walked into the office one day and said I was interested in volunteering and having patient contact (very important to mention that b/c it means the difference between getting a gift shop type job and one where you are around and with patients. She offered me a few different ones, all dealing with patients and on different units. They are always looking for ER vols and often have openings in Peds. I know Peds prefers a year commitment though, most other departments don't. I had a wonderful experience at Strong and everyone in the Volunteer main office is great (Friends of Strong). I would suggest stopping by or calling to set up a meeting/interview as soon as possible since they will be starting all the high school students soon for summer. Good Luck and let me know if i can help at all. :luck: :luck:

  9. brotherbloat

    brotherbloat Senior Member 5+ Year Member

    May 2, 2004
    I'm a non-trad applicant. All my volunteering was a load of crap--hospital, free clinics, shadowing for a semester. Until I got a full-time paying job at a hospital, in the OR.

    Who wants to "clean rooms" and "answer phones" as a volunteer? Yuck! I don't understand why anyone would waste their time with that stuff. A paying job is far better. 1) you get much more hospital/ pateint interaction, and 2) you get paid. From what I saw of the volunteers at my very large teaching hospital, they just did menial labor and boring crap like faxing. The staff would not let them near patients. I understand the value of giving your time to others, but cleaning rooms, running labs, and answering phones is a waste of time.

  10. tkim

    tkim 10 cc's cordrazine 10+ Year Member

    Aug 2, 2002
    New England
    Usually volunteering is in addition to taking a full-time undergraduate course load. It's quite a different thing when you are no longer in school, and can afford to take a full-time, paying job ...
  11. NY Musicologist

    NY Musicologist Career Changer 5+ Year Member

    Apr 1, 2005
    booradley--glad my post helped spark some thoughts for you, and sorry that I don't have any answers (still looking for my own!). I wanted, though, to wish you luck at HES. I fell in love with Boston when my sister started grad school at BU. It'll be a good two years before I can start postbacc, but when I do, I'd love for HES to be the place...

  12. Em&M

    Em&M Member 5+ Year Member

    Dec 11, 2004
    While this is certainly an "interesting" way to put it, it is partially true in the literal sense...

    Yes, in my volunteer position in the ER, I do perform a number of menial tasks such as changing linens/cleaning rooms and running errands but instead of looking at all of that as a load of crap, I prefer to get as much out of it as I can.

    Although my direct patient contact is very limited, I use my time to observe, observe, observe! The hospital that I volunteer at is NOT a level I trauma center, so we don't get the kind of action that you see on the show ER but what I do get is a great big slice of humanity. I have had to help strip clothes of an 85 year old woman and had to take the temperature of a severly mentally retarded man. I have had to witness and come to terms with the non-glamorous side of medicine. The side that people don't want to see. I have had to look some people in the eye that I would have run from on the street and I have had to learn when it is and is not appropriate to be overly sensitive to a patient's requests (ex: when the schitsophrenic woman in room 22 yells at me 10 times to get her a glass of water and then calls me "stupid" every time I bring it to her...)

    What you should be most interested in is what you are learning about the human side of medicine. Going to the hospital and grumbling because all you do is change sheets and answer phones will never open your eyes to the real heart and soul of medicine.

    I think that no matter where you end up, as long as you will actually have access to patients in any capacity (even if it is just being able to observe the docs and nurses going in and out) will open your eyes to the, sometimes, harsh realities of what it is really like. Embrace whatever opportunity that you may get and spend your time trying to see the bigger picture in what you are doing...

    Good Luck :luck:

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