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What exactly is "clinical" volunteer experience?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by aegistitan, May 20, 2014.

  1. aegistitan

    aegistitan 2+ Year Member

    Jan 29, 2014
    I am currently volunteering in a primary care physicians office, so far all I have really done is answer phone calls and welcome patients; basically I am volunteering my time as a receptionist. I asked the physician whether or not I could do some form of clinical volunteering, and she asked me what I wanted to do. I then realized I do not actually know what I am legally able to do in terms of clinical volunteering. I am also able to volunteer at a hospital, although I haven't started there yet - I am wondering what it is I should be doing. My question is, what are some examples of things you guys have done during your clinical volunteer experiences either in a hospital or in a physician's office?

    As I browsed this forum, I have come across this phrase "If you can smell the patient, it is clinical volunteering", if that were the case why doesn't shadowing count as volunteering? If this statement holds true, does that mean that my work as a receptionist is actually clinical volunteer experience because I can "smell" the patients as I welcome them, take their paperwork, and answer their phone calls?

    I have searched for previous threads on this topic, but they have not really helped me figure out actual activities I can do while clinically volunteering:
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  3. sunflower18

    sunflower18 Master of Naps 5+ Year Member

    Oct 22, 2011
    To the bolded: shadowing counts as a clinical experience, but not as volunteering. The reason is because volunteering is for the good of others, theoretically benefiting someone other than yourself. Shadowing, on the other hand, is entirely done for personal gain. That doesn't make it a bad thing to do by any means; in fact, it's usually necessary for you to shadow in order to learn about the profession you want to go into. But it does not count as volunteering because nobody else gains anything from you standing in the corner of a room and learning what doctors do. Does that make sense?
    No Limits, Planes2Doc and Goro like this.
  4. andybshaker

    andybshaker 2+ Year Member

    Jan 12, 2013
    I've always heard clinical volunteering in the context of patient interaction--something where you are actually working with patients on a regular basis as opposed to working in other areas of healthcare.
  5. Goro

    Goro Faculty 7+ Year Member

    Jun 10, 2010
    Somewhere west of St. Louis
    Precisely. Volunteering with patients lets you know what you're getting into, and shows us you want to be around sick people and their families for the next 30-40 years.

    Not all clinical volunteering has to be in a hospital. Find a clinic or hospice.

    Last edited: May 27, 2014
  6. IL Pre Med

    IL Pre Med 2+ Year Member

    Oct 11, 2012
    Things like volunteering in an emergency department or on a patient floor
  7. Zach Morris

    Zach Morris

    Mar 16, 2014
    Many hospitals will have some sort of patient navigator type program where you make rounds on particular hospital floors and directly interact with patients. I participated in a program like this and we handled alot of non-medical issues, distributed word/math puzzles, delivered ecards from loved ones to patients, and most importantly, served as someone to just talk to. There were times where I would go into a patient's room and we would talk for hours. Other times, we served more as a presence in the hospital, making sure no one felt like they were being overlooked. As someone else said, working in a hospice (could be inpatient or outpatient) is clinical. I volunteered at a hospice and they are usually really flexible with what you can do. Can you play card games with sick patients? Can you play music for sick patients? Can you be a listening ear for someone who is in the final hours of their life? It teaches you how to communicate and interact with patients in a setting similar to what you will experience when you become a physician. When thinking clinical, think direct patient interaction, most likely in an inpatient setting.
  8. mehc012

    mehc012 Big Damn Hero 5+ Year Member

    Jul 9, 2012
    The Black
    Guys, OP isn't asking where to find volunteering, they're asking what they are allowed to contribute in the context of a PCPs office.
    Seems perfectly reasonable to me, only I honestly can't think of much because I've not been to a primary doc since I was 15 and needed a sports physical for school, and because my clinical volunteering was very outside the norm.

    I would offer to clean exam rooms, walk the patients back, restock things, etc. Little stuff, sure, but still helpful.
    Anyone else (with far more insight than myself) have any suggestions?
    Can OP claim 'clinical' volunteering with their current job?
  9. aegistitan

    aegistitan 2+ Year Member

    Jan 29, 2014
    Exactly. Thank you.

    Thank you for all of the replies. However, I am fully aware of the definition of clinical volunteering and where to volunteer. Instead, I suppose I am asking for examples of what an undergraduate student can do (legally) within the setting of a primary care physician's office as a volunteer. Would doing receptionist work be considered clinical?

    Would taking vitals be considered clinical? Would I be able to take vitals legally?
  10. aegistitan

    aegistitan 2+ Year Member

    Jan 29, 2014
    Bump, can anyone else provide any insight?
  11. jonnythan

    jonnythan Some men play tennis, I erode the human soul 5+ Year Member

    Jan 26, 2012
    I took vitals during a shadowing/volunteer stint I did.
  12. Planes2Doc

    Planes2Doc Residency is ruff! Physician 5+ Year Member

    Jul 23, 2012
    The South
    Is it just me or does anyone find it weird to "volunteer" at a PCP's office? Aren't these usually for-profit private practices? Sorry, not trying to insult the OP or anything. I also realize that pre-dental students volunteer at dentist's offices and pre-pharmacy students volunteer at pharmacies. These kind of sound like places taking advantage of free labor. o_O
    No Limits likes this.
  13. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Mar 7, 2005
    Yeah, that has occurred to me. I don't consider it to be service to those in need but it is clinical exposure.

    OP, a licensed physician can supervise you doing anything he wants you to do. If anything were to go wrong, it would be his license on the line and his malpractice so he's not going to give you much to do but receptionist duty, tasks generally assigned to secretaries or custodians or nurse's aides are going to be ok for you to do as a college student who is helping out.
    No Limits and Planes2Doc like this.
  14. jonnythan

    jonnythan Some men play tennis, I erode the human soul 5+ Year Member

    Jan 26, 2012
    FWIW, I spent something like 100 hours hanging out at an urgent care clinic. I did some menial office tasks and took patient vitals, but I also sat in with the physician during exams and sometimes took patient histories for presentation. I listed it as shadowing then included some of the other functions in the blurb section.
  15. Catalystik

    Catalystik Providing herd protection Physician Faculty SDN Advisor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

    Sep 4, 2006
    Inside the tesseract
    I'd like to think that it's a rare PCP that isn't caring for patients using some form of public assistance to cover their medical costs. The state's reimbursement for this care doesn't cover the cost of overhead, let alone allow for profit (at least in my state). Perhaps we could look at it that by volunteering in a private practice, one helps that provider cover basic costs of doing business so they can continue to care for low/no-income folks?
    Leslie_Knope likes this.
  16. Planes2Doc

    Planes2Doc Residency is ruff! Physician 5+ Year Member

    Jul 23, 2012
    The South
    Thanks for the insight! That's a good perspective. I never thought of that since I grew up in a suburban area where most physicians do not take any form of Medicaid nor provide free care to the poor.
    LizzyM likes this.

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