Faculty Perspective: How Volunteering Benefits Healthcare Students
When my children were still infants, I had to juggle being a new parent and a college student at the same time. My kids were insured by Medicaid, but there weren’t many physicians who accepted it in my area. So, if my kids got sick or injured, I had a hard time finding care. My caseworker eventually directed me to the local children’s clinic, which was staffed completely by volunteers. Fortunately for me, they accepted patients who had Medicaid or who were uninsured. My interaction with the children’s clinic was my first introduction to community health.
The children’s clinic helped me through many bouts of illness with my children, and I vowed I would figure out a way to pay them back for helping my family. When a volunteer position opened up with our community health van, I started my volunteer “career.” I couldn’t afford to donate money to my community, but I could afford to donate my time and my knowledge.
As it turned out, by volunteering I gained more than I ever gave. Among other things, I gained experience that can’t be taught in the classroom. And it’s because of this that I try to pass my love of volunteering on to my students.
One of the ways I do this is by having my students do role-playing exercises in the classroom. These exercises are based on real scenarios from my past volunteer experiences. Not only does this help my students gain practical knowledge in their field, but it also helps them work on their soft skills, such as interacting with people outside of their circle, customer service, and problem-solving.
Similar to when I was in college, many of the students at CollegeAmerica can’t afford to donate their money, but they are eager to donate their time and skills. Knowing this, we actively encourage them to participate in approved volunteer activities. For our medical students, this means volunteering in various capacities at the local 9Health Fair.
Even our beginning medical students can find ways to help at the 9Health Fair, even if it’s only working the registration booth or escorting participants through the fair. Our more advanced students get to volunteer in the blood pressure, phlebotomy, and centrifuge areas.
Across the board, our students come out of the experience more confident in their skills and excited about the service they’ve provided the community in which they live and work.
About the Author
Shawntel Wilson, BS, NCMA, NCET, NCICS, NCPT, and CPI, is the associate dean of Medical Specialties at CollegeAmerica Fort Collins. She has been with CollegeAmerica since June 2004. Before joining the team, she worked as an EMT, as an athletic trainer, as a hyperbaric technologist, and as a medical assistant.