Volunteering at a hospital - best experience for a pre-nursing student?

  1. I am going for an interview at a nearby hospital for a volunteer position soon. Since I am a pre-nursing student (applying in June), I will be volunteering under a student program, which has more possibilities than simply just volunteering. The interview I'm going to will be before a panel. They will try to ascertain the best place for me to volunteer based on their needs, my hopes, etc. They also want me to come in with ideas of where I would like to volunteer (unit type, etc.), the contact I want with patients, etc.

    So, for those of you with volunteers on your units, here are my questions:
    1) One choice I have is volunteering at the nursing stations. Do you have volunteers at your stations and, if so, how helpful are they? What do they do?
    2) Other choices are in the ER, rehab, cardiac unit, etc., more hands-on or more direct patient contact. Do you work in a unit such as these where volunteers are utilized in useful ways? What do your volunteers do specifically, as it pertains to patient contact?

    While I love people and would love to have the ability to volunteer all the time, I specifically wanted to volunteer prior to clinicals in the fall - hoping, of course, that I am accepted into my program - so that I will be more comfortable with patient contact and not have it be my first time being near patients.

    Anyhow, I thought some feedback would be great before I go for my interview, especially since I know nothing about any of the units, what is done, etc. Volunteering on the nursing stations must have some practical things that will help me if I go to nursing school, like watching how things are done, etc., but I wouldn't have any patient contact, which is really what I would like.

    I appreciate any and all of your responses. Thanks much!
  2. Visit mrsrlg profile page

    About mrsrlg, BSN, RN

    Joined: Jan '09; Posts: 96; Likes: 44
    RN; from US
    Specialty: 5 year(s) of experience

    19 Comments

  3. by   ♪♫ in my ♥
    The following comes from my first-hand experience as a volunteer in two hospitals and one community clinic as well as my nursing-school clinical rotations in two different hospitals (clinic, med-surg, postpartum, L&D, neonatal).

    A common theme in all five locations has been: No direct patient contact and no access to medical records. What the volunteers have done in the various settings:

    1) Disinfect/wipe down doors, counters, sinks.
    2) Carry samples from the unit to the lab.
    3) Refill the blanket warmer.
    4) File paperwork and make copies.
    5) Organize reference files.
    6) Obtain supplies from central supply.
    7) Carry IV solutions from the pharmacy to the unit
    8) Bring the book cart around to patients.
    9) Pick up menus.
    10) If you're really lucky, shadow the physician when she sees patients.
    11) Work on grant-writing.
  4. by   mrsrlg
    Quote from ♪♫ in my ♥
    The following comes from my first-hand experience as a volunteer in two hospitals and one community clinic as well as my nursing-school clinical rotations in two different hospitals (clinic, med-surg, postpartum, L&D, neonatal).

    A common theme in all five locations has been: No direct patient contact and no access to medical records. What the volunteers have done in the various settings:

    1) Disinfect/wipe down doors, counters, sinks.
    2) Carry samples from the unit to the lab.
    3) Refill the blanket warmer.
    4) File paperwork and make copies.
    5) Organize reference files.
    6) Obtain supplies from central supply.
    7) Carry IV solutions from the pharmacy to the unit
    8) Bring the book cart around to patients.
    9) Pick up menus.
    10) If you're really lucky, shadow the physician when she sees patients.
    11) Work on grant-writing.
    I wondered about actual contact with patients. I didn't think it was usual for volunteers, but never having volunteered in a hospital, I wasn't sure. That helps give me an idea as to duties for sure. Thanks!

    Oops, forgot one question...what does one wear to volunteer? Do you normally wear like black pants and a top with an apron or something? Thanks!
    Last edit by mrsrlg on May 20, '09 : Reason: Added something
  5. by   nursehopeful33
    My volunteer experience was pretty much the same. I wore khakis and a polo shirt that was provided by the hospital.
  6. by   BEDPAN76
    Use the time to get your CNA. You will learn how to take vital signs, make beds, position patients, feed, etc. You will learn some anatomy and medical terminology. You will see the whole team "in action". Plus, you can make some money and maybe pick up some shifts on weekends and holidays. Check out nursing homes....work is hard but extremely rewarding. Keep us posted on what you decide and good luck with the interview!
  7. by   mrsrlg
    Quote from BEDPAN76
    Use the time to get your CNA. You will learn how to take vital signs, make beds, position patients, feed, etc. You will learn some anatomy and medical terminology. You will see the whole team "in action". Plus, you can make some money and maybe pick up some shifts on weekends and holidays. Check out nursing homes....work is hard but extremely rewarding. Keep us posted on what you decide and good luck with the interview!
    Thanks, Bedpan76! I'm actually just finishing up A&P II now, so I have all my pre-reqs and only need to do the HESI now. App date is 7/2, so I'll be finishing up the rest of what I have to do prior to then (gather reference letters, HESI, continue on with Hep B, get TB test, etc.). I wish I had the time and money to get my CNA as I think it would be excellent experience, although I've been in school nonstop for the last 2 years so a summer off is pretty enticing, especially if starting nursing in Sept (hopefully!) lol. I'm a contract medical transcriptionist, so I'm not completely without any knowledge, but definitely lacking in face-to-face/patient/hospital experience. Mom-in-law has been with the hospital system for 28 years, although in administration, so she is currently checking out where the greatest need is and where I might get the best experience, which is helpful, but I appreciate all input here - direct knowledge is priceless. Wherever they put me, I'm sure it will be a great experience and it all helps, especially since this is a hospital where my school does clinicals. Thanks!
  8. by   BEDPAN76
    Hi Mrslq, Sounds like you are all set! The medical transcription experience will help you immensely! And I don't blame you for being "over" school right now...The volunteer job will be fun, and you may get to meet people who you will run into as a student nurse. Networking is important!!
  9. by   mrsrlg
    Quote from BEDPAN76
    Hi Mrslq, Sounds like you are all set! The medical transcription experience will help you immensely! And I don't blame you for being "over" school right now...The volunteer job will be fun, and you may get to meet people who you will run into as a student nurse. Networking is important!!
    I've read here that nursing is intensive, probably more so than school has been to this point, so a break is key. Plus, my flower gardens are in some disrepair after going to school full-time through last summer as well, so they need some attention...lol. Yes, despite what I do or don't learn while volunteering, it will be a great experience, and networking is always good. I've heard that one can maybe work as a PCA after finishing the first quarter, so that may be an option at the hospital as well, at least worth checking out for more experience.
  10. by   mackenziec85
    Hi mrslrg!

    I currently volunteer at a hospital in pediatrics, and I do all sorts of things. I do follow up phone calls, clean toys, clean the playroom, get drinks for parents, do art projects, play with kids, and hold babies when their parents may want a break. I also helped with a school field trip a few weeks ago by leading them in a BINGO game. I got to go to the NICU one day, too...I didn't do a whole lot there, but it was definitely a good experience.

    For my uniform, I wear black pants and a shirt provided by the hospital.

    I hope this was helpful!

    MacKenzie
  11. by   mrsrlg
    Quote from mackenziec85
    Hi mrslrg!

    I currently volunteer at a hospital in pediatrics, and I do all sorts of things. I do follow up phone calls, clean toys, clean the playroom, get drinks for parents, do art projects, play with kids, and hold babies when their parents may want a break. I also helped with a school field trip a few weeks ago by leading them in a BINGO game. I got to go to the NICU one day, too...I didn't do a whole lot there, but it was definitely a good experience.

    For my uniform, I wear black pants and a shirt provided by the hospital.

    I hope this was helpful!

    MacKenzie
    Hi MacKenzie,

    Thanks for all the info! I would LOVE to volunteer in peds. It sounds like you get to do a ton of cool things with the kids, as well as other things. While I want to eventually work in geriatrics, I've never really thought of peds because I've always thought I would be afraid to hurt the kids with needles and such. Perhaps volunteering with children would give me a different perspective, in that I would be helping them get better, not there to hurt. I do love them, but I just have that fear of cringing children as I walk toward them with needles, etc. lol. Your description has made me think I would love volunteering with children/babies, so that may be something I pursue. Thanks so much!
  12. by   mackenziec85
    Glad I could help!
  13. by   justavolunteer
    I am 'justavolunteer on a pt. unit. I usually get water for patients, fetch supplies, IV pumps, etc for the nurses. I have also helped turn pts to help with an exam, cleanup, etc. A lot of volunteers wouldn't want to see patients with wounds, poop, etc. I have helped because I've been around for awhile. Sometimes the biggest part is convincing a nurse that I won't faint at the sight of blood and give her another problem to deal with.
    If you want to really do direct care, you may have to be a CNA. The volunteering does let you see life on a pt. unit though.
    Some hospitals hire nursing students for CNA-type duties if they have passed a certain point in their clinicals.
    Anyway, good luck with your studies!
  14. by   ccjus123
    No direct patient contact


    In NYC this hospital has a "cuddler program", where you get to hold babies.

    I guess every facility is different.

    http://www.nym.org/Community%20Outre...0Volunteer.asp

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