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We Volunteer in med school, and this is why you should too!

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I’ve often heard some of my colleagues say that they did volunteer work before starting medical school as it appeared to be an ‘unofficial’ requirement for many medical school applications.

However, many students tend to deviate from volunteer work once accepted, and pursue research positions, presenting at conferences, and even working in a hospital setting as a medical assistant or hospital technician.

This week, it made me ask why should we volunteer? Is there any point in doing volunteer work, or is it simply a waste of time? Should we volunteer just to simply fill up our CVs? Here are a few reasons I, along with the help of some of my colleagues believe that volunteering can make you a better student, and future doctor.

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Create Connections

This point was mentioned by all my colleagues when asked for the benefits of volunteering. Volunteering in a healthcare setting can give you the opportunity to make a good impression on the doctors that you work with and hope to work with in the near future. This might open you up to clinical elective positions and research placements they may be willing to offer to you. All you need to do is just ask. Maybe all you want is more information that the doctor can provide you with or you’re looking for another opportunity to advance in your future career. You might even get a good letter of recommendation from the experience!

Developing Empathy

Empathy is one of the key traits that aspiring doctors are expected to possess. It goes without saying that patients want their doctor to be academically prepared to help them with their condition and the management plan they may need. However, patients also expect their doctors to have good bedside manners, to be aware of their emotions and to respond to them appropriately. In fact, studies have shown that physician empathy has had a positive impact on patient compliance with treatment and satisfaction.

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Figure it all out

Volunteering allows students the opportunity to figure out what field we would like to pursue in medicine. Some of us may have only been exposed to a few medical or surgical rotations during the course, but might not have gotten the chance to explore a certain field you may be considering to pursue; whether it is to experience the frontline nature of a career in emergency medicine or the gratification of managing patients with acute and chronic illnesses in general practice.

The goal is to figure out how it is all like behind the scenes; observing how the doctor interacts in the doctor-patient relationship, and as part of a multidisciplinary team in hospital or community settings.

Enhancing your Skills

You should aim to make your volunteering experience a learning experience, and one that allows you to offer your skills while acquiring additional knowledge. There’s no point in wasting your time by volunteering in an organization you don’t have an interest in, or in a position, you feel uneasy in. Remember, one of the goals of volunteering is to practice using some skills you may have learned during college, and discover any hidden interests and talents you may have.

This may be the best time to practice taking a patient’s bloods, performing an ABG, or inserting a urinary catheter.

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Making a Difference

This may sound corny, but providing your time to help others can offer you a sense of gratification. Regardless of the size of the task, big or small, volunteering gives you the opportunity to make the world a better place.

PSSST!!!

Did you know our Medics Abroad packages also provide medics with an opportunity to partake in international community engagement programmes while on clinical elective?

You can find out more information by clicking HERE.

Ola Falade

The author Ola Falade

Ola is a medical student at The Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI).

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