Volunteering Help, PLEASE?

  1. I am starting my prereq's this fall. I am really excited to get them over with and start the nursing program. anyhow, I was just curious about volunteering at my local hospital....

    1) what kind of work would I be doing? I'm not asking because I don't want to get stuck with dirty work(because I won't mind ) but because I want to make sure it is something I can handle.

    2) Would I be mostly helping nurses or patients or what?

    3) Do nurses/doctors feel that volunteers only get in their way?

    4) Do hospitals REALLY need volunteers?

    5) Do a lot of people volunteer?

    6) How many hours can I get?

    I just want to get some good hospital experience because I am itching to become a nurse, but I just wanted to research volunteering a little just to make sure I can handle it.
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  2. 13 Comments

  3. by   Wren
    Saccharin,

    All good questions! Yes, hospitals do need volunteers (and more nurses but that's another story).

    What will you be doing? Totally depends on the hospital or even the unit you pick and what you WANT to do. Most won't stick you somewhere that you have no interest in. You could call the volunteer coordinator of the hospitals you are considering and get more info. I am sure you will find big differences between them. You might be disappointed though that most volunteer jobs are non-clinical. The tasks are still important to the functioning of a hospital but might not meet your needs. Examples are staffing the information desk and giving directions to visitors, delivering mail, working in offices assisting with paperwork.

    Do docs and nurses think volunteers get in the way? No, I've never seen that but again, most hospital volunteers are doing non-clinical work and have less contact with the nurses or doctors. There ARE places that have volunteers who are more clinically oriented (Hospice, AIDS facilities, etc) but I don't think that is what you are thinking of.

    One thing you might consider is becoming a nursing assistant (CNA) and working while you are going to school. A lot of nurses start that way or decide as a CNA to become a nurse. You will see the good, the bad and the ugly and your nursing school classes will make more sense to you. I was envious of the few people in my nursing classes who worked as CNAs because they had much less fear and anxiety about clinicals! You will be able to work part time and probably get as many hours as you want. Just a thought.

    Good luck!
  4. by   saccharin
    Wren, thank you for your reply! I never really thought about becoming a CNA. My high school(just graduated) had a 2 year medical/health related class. In the 2nd year, you could become a CNA...but sadly I never took the 2nd year I still regret it today because I could be working as a CNA now.

    Now, my NEW question is......how long would it take for me to become a CNA? Weeks? Months? A Year? Can the hospital train me or do I need to enroll in classes somewhere else? This CNA thing really does sound like me!
  5. by   meownsmile
    Absolutely,, hospitals need volunteers,,
    At my hospital, volunteers do quit a few different things. They can answer call lights(have to get staff if needed), they fill water pitchers, make pharmacy runs(no narc pickups), deliver lab specimens, see ambulatory patients to their rides when discharged.
    I dont think i have ever heard anyone say a volunteer was "in the way". We welcome more eyes and ears. Sometimes just sitting with a confused patient is worth millions to staff that doesnt have time to spend on one patient alone.
    I think a hospital would let you volunteer any hours you wanted.

    Your hospita could put you in touch with a CNA class in your area,, it would more likely by only about 6 to 8 weeks i think.
  6. by   LauraF, RN
    Originally posted by saccharin
    Wren, thank you for your reply! I never really thought about becoming a CNA. My high school(just graduated) had a 2 year medical/health related class. In the 2nd year, you could become a CNA...but sadly I never took the 2nd year I still regret it today because I could be working as a CNA now.

    Now, my NEW question is......how long would it take for me to become a CNA? Weeks? Months? A Year? Can the hospital train me or do I need to enroll in classes somewhere else? This CNA thing really does sound like me!
    I'm not sure about in a hospital setting, but nursing homes have an on-site(or most of them) training. Nothing out of pocket for you, and you can work while you are being trained.

    As far as volunteers yes they are needed. At the hospital I take my Preemie for follow-ups they have soooo many volunteers. They supervise play time, or read stories, pass out stickers, help coloring activities all helping the kids be patient through the waiting of an appointment. When I was a volunteer over 20 years ago, I did alot. It was in a local hospital. I passed water, gave fresh linen and answered call lights. As I proved myself as wanting to get involved, the nurses actually started asking me if I wanted to go with them during procedures and other things. It was quite a learning experience. Good luck with whichever choice you make.
  7. by   obillyboy
    I got my CNA at a "Vo-Tech" school here in PA. Working as an aidefor tha few years did wonders for my clinical skills.
    You get to see it all right up-front. So when you are in class learning the procedure you have first hand knowledge.
    I believe it can help make you a better Nurse.
  8. by   Wren
    Saccharin,

    I agree with the other responses and it sounds like there are a lot of possibilities for volunteering. CNA programs are different lengths depending on where you want to work but I'd guess that 6 to 12 weeks is probably the average. Many hospitals and nursing homes have their own training programs so start there or with the classified ads and ask lots of questions.

    Whatever you end up doing, look at it as an opportunity to learn about yourself and what you enjoy and what you don't. Nursing is wonderful because there are many paths to choose from and we don't all like the same clinical areas.

    Good luck with your search....
  9. by   purplemania
    our volunteers only patient contact is by guiding the wheelchair. Can you work as a unit clerk or aide prn? That would teach you volumes!
  10. by   ExAirBagRN
    Saccharin- Your post caught my eye as I had the same questions about 3 months ago. I am 36 and not at all familiar with the hospital setting (I am a flight attendant for goodness sakes!), but wanting to know about volunteering as a segueway (SP?) into a new career for me as an LPN. I have been at my area hopsital for the past 3 months as a volunteer and have done exactly what the other posts say-- mainly clerical duties, water, filling glove supplies, answering call lights at the nurses station, escorting patients around. I enjoy it, but imagine that being a CNA would give me the basic hands-on that I will need when I enter my PN program in the fall. Don't get me wrong- volunteering is very important. The staff is VERY gracious- always telling us how they appreciate our help! Music to my ears!! I have never felt in the way- I'm too busy!! Also, it's great networking. At my hospital, they like for us to volunteer 4 hours a week (split up or not), a 3 month commitment. Call your area hospital and talk to the Volunteer Coordinator, they will be very anxious to see you!! It's a great start to a career!!!! Good luck to you in your decision-----DAWN
  11. by   KidsLuvMe
    I'm looking for a hospital to volunteer at too. I looked up my local hospital on the www and asked them for info and they sent me a whole packet of volunteering info, including what positions are available.
  12. by   Agnus
    Consider hospice volunteering especially if you want some interactions with patients. Every hospice by law must have 5% of its services provided by volunteers.
    Volunteers are absolutely vital to hospice. I don't know what we would do without them.
    Volunteers in hospice do not provide direct care such as bathing and that sort of thing. However, you may be need to feed patients, be a companion, run errands, help around the home, and an number of other things involving direct contact.
    We train our voluteers extensively. You would access for pain every visit, you would provied psycological, social and spiritual support as do the prfessional team members, and you would be invited to participate in interdisapinary team conferences in planing the care for the patient. Your input and feed back is valuable and you would be getting a feel for nursing.
    You would be taugh to watch for signs and symptoms and you would contribute to patient and family education.
    To find a hospice, either check the phone book, ask at the local hospital, (hospitals sometimes offer hospice service themselves), check with local cancer society, alzhimer society, Check with nursing homes who can often put you in touch with a hospice that they work with.
  13. by   Lanegirl
    I am currently volunteering in the ER at the only hospital we have locally. I am sure most hospitals have a volunteer coordinator that handles volunteer programs. After attending the orientation, I specifically requested the ER. Luckily for me I knew many nurses through my work so they let me do a little more than maybe normal. I attach myself to one of the CNAs and we do everything together. I have helped feed patients, assisted in placing EKG leads, assisted Doc while he was doing suturing, set up suture kits, lots of stocking for the rooms, escorted patients, transferred patients to floor, sat with patients who needed to be watched, emptied urinals, provide blankets etc, hold pedi patients..............you do get to see a lot even when you don't get to do actual hands on and I've learned a ton! I really enjoy my time at the ER.
  14. by   zambezi
    Another area that you could look into is being a monitor tech in a telemetry or critical care unit, though not all hosptials use them. In our unit, the MT is also our unit secretary and inputs all of our orders, answers phones, runs/posts/and monitors tele, updates RN if changes (the RN also watches their own patients but it is a nice extra pair of eyes), if a code is called the MT makes sure continuous rhythm strips are running, calls to have the code announced overhead, makes sure that xray, rt, etc are on their way, as well as various other functions...it is a paid position, can also be on-call, etc...when i was in school, we also had various people as hospice voluenteers and all had very positive things to say about it and were glad that they had done it...good luck...

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