Clinical Volunteering in the Time of COVID
Volunteering your time to serve patients demonstrates traits essential to the practice of clinical medicine – including empathy, communication skills, a service ethic, and exposure to the profession. Of course, it has been difficult to obtain these experiences in the past year as many health care clinics and hospitals suspended their volunteer programs in the wake of COVID-19. The good news is that in the past year some organizations have tweaked their volunteer programs to provide for remote opportunities that pre-med students could do from home. And, more recently, some providers have started to open their doors again to volunteers, offering limited in-person opportunities. We recently reached out to organizations to inquire about their current volunteer opportunities; you can read their updates below. As one Director of Community Engagement and Volunteer Services told us, “volunteers have been an amazing help to us” during the pandemic. So, we urge you to find an opportunity that suits your interests and will allow you to safely interact with patients in some capacity before going on to medical school.
There is a physician-led group profiled in The Inquirer that assists Pennsylvanians with finding Covid vaccine appointments. If you are interested in volunteering as a “finder” to assist people with finding appointments, email Judy Foreman Curiel at email@example.com and put FINDER in the subject line.
In response to the impact that COVID-19 is having on international travel, FIMRC has been working tirelessly to launch exciting virtual volunteer opportunities so that volunteers can gain experience from home. With five programs to choose from: Virtual Global Health Volunteer Experience, Virtual Global Health Fellowship, Virtual Global Health Leadership Training, Virtual Global Health Training, and the Spanish-only Voluntariado Virtual de Salud; there are opportunities for a variety of skill sets, academic programs, and those looking to contribute. Virtual volunteer programs: https://www.fimrc.org/virtual-volunteer-programs
Penn Heros connect volunteers with patients in children’s hospitals. This semester, they have the following activities:
1) Dress up as a kids’ character (prince/princess/superhero/other) and then pre-record videos to send to pediatric patients in hospitals
2) Edit the character videos before sending them to the patients
3) Make cards (physical and digital) to give to children patients
Any students who are interested in volunteering can sign up to receive emails at tinyurl.com/pennheroes, or can email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
Penn KDSAP will be sending health kits to families in their partner communities. These kits include hand sanitizers, masks, stress balls, pedometers, and more. They will be including personal notes in each kit. If any students want to volunteer to help write notes, they can contact the group at email@example.com.
PALS has adapted their doula trainings and will be hosting them virtually until further notice. The trainings will cover the same content that in-person trainings cover and will still be a DONA International-approved training. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to be put on the list to receive notifications about the next training and instructions about how to register.
Volunteer opportunities were on hold from March to July due to the pandemic, but since August the VA Medical Center has started to gradually bring back volunteers. They now offer both on-site and virtual opportunities.
Volunteer Opportunities During COVID-19: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umwL6grAuuY&t=7s
Volunteer Website: https://www.philadelphia.va.gov/giving/index.asp
Prevention Point Philadelphia’s mission is to promote health, empowerment and safety for communities affected by drug use and poverty. Volunteers are incredibly important to the work of Prevention Point. While it slowed down a little bit during the beginning of the pandemic, they have continued to safely have volunteers throughout the pandemic. Prospective volunteers can reach out to Clayton Ruley, Director of Community Engagement and Volunteer Services, at email@example.com. Following a virtual orientation and paperwork, volunteers can begin serving in the community.