Summers: Volunteer in a Hospital

This is an interview of Ms. Onome Uwhuba (University of Chicago Class of 2013). She volunteered during Summer 2010. You can email her with any further questions.

Where did you volunteer?

I volunteered at the Mountain Vista Medical Center in Mesa, Arizona. I volunteered in the Med-Surg/Orthopedics/Bariatric ward.

Please give a brief summary of the volunteer program

Mountain Vista has a volunteer program that high school students and adults can volunteer with. Although many hospital volunteers are seniors, Volunteer Supervisors work with new volunteers to figure our what kind of experience they want to have and place them in the right ward or setting that matches their needs. I was placed in my ward because I wanted direct patient-care and interaction with Doctors, Nurses and other staff.

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Volunteers also had opportunities to observe as many surgeries as they wanted-an opportunity I took advantage of.

Please give a brief summary of your experience with the program

My volunteer tasks involved answering patient Call-Lights, and going on patient rounds to help provide patients with whatever they needed. The first task I perform upon arrival is going on rounds and providing patients with everything from water, to warm towels and blankets to food. I also stock the gloves and supplies in the rooms, record patients’ Intakes and sanitize the sink and table areas in the patient rooms. After that, I sit with Unit Secretary and answer phone calls, and Call-Lights to help patients, and going on errands and retrieving items needed by the Medical Staff. I also put together and break-down patient charts and send charts of discharged patients to Medical Records.  Then near the end of my shift, I go on my final rounds with water refills for all non-NPO patients.

Could you talk about the good/great/amazing things about your experiences?

The one thing about volunteering at Mountain Vista that I loved the most was the opportunity for volunteers to volunteer in all parts of the hospital, and observe anywhere they wanted to.

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I especially appreciated the opportunity to observe surgeries with little or no notice.

What about things could have been better?

The main thing about volunteering at Mountain Vista that was different from my other hospital-volunteering experience, was the fact that due to insurance purposes, volunteers were unable to assist patients in wheel-chairs, and were discouraged from actually touching patients to help them sit-up, etc. This limitation was one of my first experiences were bureaucracy, insurance and legal limitations reduced the scope of care provided to patients. I actually had to sometimes call the CNA to help with some patients, though I could have helped myself.

Anything important that you learned there that you want to share?

In my ward, most of the patients had surgeries and then came up to us for a few days before being discharged. The patients while in my ward, were all taken care of by Hospitalists, all of whom seemed very, very busy. I had hoped to talk to some of the Doctors, but most spent their time on the computers, writing scripts, talking to patients, etc. and then rushed off to the other parts of the hospital. I also saw how much paperwork was included in a patient’s chart-many of which were not actually related to patient care, but were just part of the bureaucracy, etc. Also, Mountain Vista does not have an electronic charting system, and the big bulky file charts that were used were always missing or needed by two or more people at the same time. Electronic charting systems would have made things much easier for everyone.

Could you explain how you found out about the program, the application process and any tips for students interested in volunteering?

Many if not all hospitals have volunteer programs. One thing to note is that some of them might ask for a time commitment that you may not be able to fulfill, so I suggest you call the volunteer departments of hospitals around you to make sure you meet their requirements.

The application process is pretty simple (usually no essays). But you need to have immunizations. It is best if you already have a TB test or Chest X-Ray, because that usually takes about 2 weeks or more to complete.

Do your best to ask about the scope of things available for you to do in your volunteer program, and don’t be afraid to ask if you can switch your volunteer position to gain experience in various areas of the hospital.

You can contact Onome at onome@uchicago.edu

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One response to “Summers: Volunteer in a Hospital

  1. Why is it that the volunteers were refrained from assisting patients in wheel-chairs, and were discouraged from actually touching them to help them sit-up?..What’s the explanation? I am so much confused!..thanks.

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