One of the best ways to build an effective medical school application is to obtain a hospital volunteer experience. Spending a few hours each week volunteering in a hospital setting will ultimately result a higher paycheck later down the career road. Here are some ways that you can make the most of that hospital volunteer experience:
Getting the job
The benefits of volunteering at a hospital begin even before you’ve stepped foot in the building. Learning how to find volunteer work is a valuable experience with transferable skills. Begin by researching the hospitals you’d like to work in – you may find message boards and social media posts which reveal insights into what it’s like working at a particular hospital. You may discover in your search that the most well known hospital in your area treats its volunteer staff poorly, and you might discover that hidden gem which ultimately is the ideal hospital in which to volunteer your time. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, reach out and make contact with the volunteer department. At this point, you will hone your professional interview skills; just because you are volunteering doesn’t mean that the screening process isn’t thorough. Be prepared to explain why a particular hospital is the right one for you and how you plan to contribute to their patient care work. The beginning stage of the hospital volunteer experience is a great time to learn how to research, interview, and present your most professional and serious self.
Working well with your colleagues
As a volunteer, you’ll find yourself low in the hospital hierarchy. You’ll be paying your dues early on as you learn how to work in a fast-paced, urgent setting. Pay attention to how medical professionals interact with each other and those who are above and below them on the pay scale. These interactions offer insight into the structure of the hospital setting and how you will fit into it as your career progresses. Be as accommodating as possible to the demands of the work, and ask questions so that your work is done correctly and professionally. Be friendly with the other volunteers at the hospital. They are your peers and a source of support and knowledge.
Perfecting patient care
During your hospital volunteer experience, you will begin to learn what it means to provide excellent patient care. This will come in theform of observing nurses and physicians as well as directly if you develop into an advanced hospital volunteer. As a beginner, you will beasked to complete a variety of standard volunteer work, including working in reception, performing clerical duties, cleaning up public areasof the hospital, and transporting hospital-related items around the facility. You will also visit with patients, and here is where you will learn how to interact with a diverse hospital population. You will meet, greet, and converse with patients of all ages, races, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds. If you are used to living and working in a homogeneous environment, this plethora of diversity will allow you expand your horizons and teach you how to get along with all types of people, the kind that are likely to be your future patients.
Is a medical career right for you?
Shortly into the tenure of your first hospital volunteer experience, you are closer to knowing for sure whether a medical career is the right path for you. But if your first weeks or months of your volunteer experience don’t meet your expectations, don’t automatically write off a medical career. Try another hospital volunteer experience. You may just find your niche at another facility. — Post by Madelaine Kingsbury.
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Aside from the tangible benefits of volunteering, which may include building a house for Habitat for Humanity or getting clerical duties done at a hospital, the intangible benefits of volunteering are numerous. A volunteer may benefit from an improved sense of self-worth, pride and accomplishment while improving the lives of others. Hospital jobs provide the added benefit of interacting with those you are helping so you can see the difference you make in the lives of others.
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Hospital volunteers specifically assist patients and their families during their time in the hospital. Volunteers may choose to provide administrative support by providing data entry, clerical duties and customer service. If volunteers wish to provide emotional support to patients and their families, they may choose to visit patients, provide counseling services, play with children or walk around the hospital with a service animal.
Volunteering at a hospital benefits the volunteer, the patients, the families and the hospital workers. The volunteer often benefits from meeting new people, learning new skills, gaining experience and improving self-worth. Meeting new people helps improve social skills and increases the individual's social network. The volunteer may become friends with fellow volunteers or patients. Friendships are important for individuals. They help individuals get through tough times and contribute to a greater sense of confidence. Learning new skills is also a valuable benefit for the volunteer. The skills may help the volunteer with everyday tasks, such as operating a computer, or with career-related tasks that will help the individual obtain a job. Individuals wishing to go to medical school and work in hospitals will also gain relevant experience and boost their resumes.
Some hospital patients may not have family or friends in the area to visit them. It can be a very lonely experience to combat an illness alone. Therefore, some hospital patients may significantly benefit from someone there to talk to them. Children may benefit from individuals playing games with them or having volunteer clowns and entertainers visit. Patients of all ages may also benefit from visits by service animals and their caretakers. Many hospitals allow certified dogs, cats or miniature horses to visit patients.
To volunteer at a hospital, contact your local hospital or volunteer center to inquire about available positions. Once you have a list of the positions, evaluate them to determine which area you are passionate about. You may prefer to work with children, elderly, adolescent or adult patients. You may also choose whether you prefer working directly with patients or in a data entry type of position. If you choose a position you will enjoy, the you and the patients will receive greater benefits. After you have made your choice, contact the hospital volunteer coordinator to set up a meeting or orientation.
Some hospitals may have an age limit for volunteers. Also be aware of the fact that many may require tests or vaccinations before volunteering for safety reasons. If you are unable to volunteer because of an age limit, consider volunteering at other organizations.
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