Becoming a hospital volunteer can be a great way to help in your community and to learn whether you’d like to pursue a career in medicine. It additionally can be a terrific way to amp up applications for different types of medical school. You can benefit personally from becoming a hospital volunteer since it allows you to interact with people who need assistance.
There are some things to consider before becoming a hospital volunteer. You need to be aware that working in a hospital can pose a risk to your health. People in hospitals are sick, and some have viral diseases that can be transmitted to workers. Though hospitals make every effort to keep people with viral or other infectious diseases away from other patients and workers, a person’s diagnosis isn’t always known when they enter a hospital. You should be current on all necessary vaccinations, and understand that work as a hospital volunteer is not without risk.
Further, you will be coming into contact, in certain cases, with experiences that can be deeply saddening, disturbing, or distressing. Having good mental health, an excellent support system, and a good tolerance for certain sights, like blood, will probably help you much in your volunteer experience. Typically, you won’t be in contact with many patients who are severely injured, as this is the job of doctors and nurses. Yet from time to time, you may be exposed to some pretty scary things, and seeing it in real life is different than seeing it on television. If you faint at the sight of blood, or throw up when someone else does, you may not be a good hospital volunteer.
Once you’ve thought about these matters and decided to be a hospital volunteer, the next thing to consider is what things you’d like to do. You may want to help at an admissions desk, visit with patients, do paperwork, or assist in a more medically active way. Note that you won’t be doing much in the way of medical care because you are not trained. A couple other ways to serve that are usually reserved for adults, is working as a hospital chaplain or a baby holder. Chaplaincy may require training, and it also requires religious flexibility and tolerance. Even if you’re Catholic and work in a Catholic hospital, expect that many people with different faiths will come to that hospital.
In the past, teen volunteers, almost always girls were called candy stripers. This term is not used much any more, since both boys and girls may work in hospitals. Once you’ve had a chance to consider what you’d like to do, or have no preference, contact the hospital where you’d like to work and ask questions about volunteer opportunities. Expect to interview for a job, and receive some training. Occasionally hospitals work with local high schools or Volunteer Centers in order to get volunteers— so you may want to check with these first.
If you’re working directly with patients, you may be doing things like running errands, reading aloud and offering directions to visitors. Hospitals also need people who can greet and direct visitors, or who can help with all the administrative duties it takes to run a hospital. Being cheerful, helpful, and willing to take on all manner of work is a great way to retain your job and to assist people who are ill and their families. Learning organizational skills, good phone manners, computer skills, and basic office duties, can help you if you’d like to work in an administrative capacity.