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volunteering in the ER

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by medical22, Jul 13, 2002.

  1. medical22

    medical22 Senior Member 7+ Year Member

    Jul 15, 2001
    I would like to volunteer in the ER. If you have worked or volunteered in the ER, I would appreciate if you could share your experience with me. What kinds of things can I expect to do and see as a volunteer. I don't want to go into emergency medicine, but do you still think it will be beneficial to me? I am interested in general practice.
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  3. Pinki

    Pinki Sassy Member 10+ Year Member

    Sep 3, 2001
    I didn't get too much out of the ER. I found the doctors, nurses and techs for the most part too busy and too, um, detached to really take the time to answer my questions, let me watch, etc. And I'm no fly on the wall, but I was told many times that unless i wanted to go clean a bed or deliver a urine sample to the lab, me and my questions were pretty much in the way. I think it was A) the nature of the inner-city, large ER I worked in where the climate was rather overworked and understaffed, without a clear mission for volunteers and B) part of the nature of the ER biz, where I observed in my year, a need for practioners to detach oneself from the whirl of people. Plus, staff was ALWAYS changing and I was always having to introduce myself to new folks every other afternoon. It was hard to develop a professional, working relationship, and again, I'm no ogre, I swear! I'm sure many people will disagree, but it wasn't the most unique experience, and go into that knowing that.

    I got more out of an indigent clinic situation, where I developed a one on one rapor with the staff and recurrent patients alike. Something to consider...
  4. chopsuey

    chopsuey miss independent 7+ Year Member

    Jun 13, 2002
    good question.... ;)
    i'm actually writing this post during my shift in the me, this is a much needed break!! i love working in the ED and do feel like I'm getting a lot of exposure. I think the key is to do it somewhere where the doctors are helpful (i.e. a teaching hospital) and to not be afraid to ask questions. So far today (just in the last 3 hours), I've watched 3 procedures, interviewed 4 families and chilled out with a bunch of the residents while sitting in one of the teams. Just to clarify I'm a research assistant, so it makes it easier for me to ask questions I guess (I volunteered at this hospital when I was a frosh and I remember specifically being told NOT to ask any questions about the patients' histories/dx's because my job was to play with the kids and just try to keep them happy in a stressful time). I mainly recruit patients for studies and work on a clinical research project with one of the ED attendings. Like I said in another post, it's not always the most fun job ever (looking up charts gets old really fast!), but I really do get to see a lot and learn a lot about the medical profession. You just really have to take the initiative and ask to shadow docs while you're working/volunteering or after your shift is over...

    ok, back to work!!
  5. Rapid Decomposition

    Rapid Decomposition 10+ Year Member

    Feb 28, 2002
    I agree, my volunteer experience in the ER was similarly really stupid. I really didn't get to see too much and usually I was just wheeling patients around or cleaning off gurneys (which I guess someone needs to do but not altogether interesting). I think that it's really just a matter of the doctors really just not having the time and/or energy to want to include you (most of the ones at my ER were overworked residents), since as a volunteer you basically are just in the way. I think it would be a lot easier to get something out of the experience if you were actually a hired employee of some kind (nurse's assistant, research assistant, whatever). I got hired in an endocrinology clinic this summer (endo is what I think I want to go into) and the experience has been just phenomenal because the doctors are so great about including me and giving me an active role in patient care.
  6. Drako

    Drako Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Jul 10, 2001
    Northern CA
    My volunteering experience in the ER had been very rewarding. This is because the volunteer program we had was run by volunteers and the hospital had a long-time reputation of being volunteer friendly.

    I was there for a period of about three years, doing any thing that needed to be done. With the exception of a few doctors, the majority of them was nice and enthusiastic to teach. They show me how to read X-ray and explained most of the basic points of imaging technology such as MRI. What was more memorable was the nursing staff. I was close to two of them, a lady and a genleman. They took me everywhere and allow me to do a lot of things. Afterward, they would explain what they did while they write their notes on the charts. It was a grand experience!

    And the patients and their families...some of them really showed me why people want to go into medicine.

    I was not confined to the ER. During my shift, I would get to go everywhere in the hospitals, along with the staff and patients. My other favorite place was Ped.

    Looking back, I could say that volunteering in the ER helped to solidify my desire to become a physician. Every Saturday contributed a little to the cause and the journey. I believe that you are free to make the most of what you face at a given moment in time. I knew people, volunteers in the same ER, who did not like it because they did not take the time to ask questions, engage the staff, and put out an effort to learn and help. I came there, not knowing if medicine is for me. When I left, there wasn't going to be a soul in this world that is going to tell me to study something else.

    So, give it a try and see if you like it. Give it your best and see if you are rewarded. You could always find another department in the hospital to volunteer (we had ER, ICU, CCU, Ped, Oncology, etc.). If the hospital doesn't suit you, then find a local clinic (I did this too) and volunteer. The clinic could be just as rewarding, if not more. But that is another thread. :)

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