Preparing for med school, it’s tough to know what qualifies as clinical experience or not. Especially for roles that aren’t hospital-based.
So does hospice volunteering count as clinical experience?
Hospice volunteering counts for clinical experience if the hospice organization directly allows patient care. But not if the volunteering is clerical or administrative in nature. Many med schools appreciate hospice volunteering as a strong contributor to your overall application.
But there are a couple more things to think about. Especially as you can’t take it as a given that all med schools will count it.
As a med student myself, and as someone familiar with the process, I understand answers to questions like this aren’t always straightforward. So that’s what this article is for.
- How hospice volunteering compares to hospital volunteering
- When hospice volunteering counts (and when it doesn’t)
- What the role of a hospice volunteer is
- What makes a good hospice volunteer
- How you can use it to put together a more competitive med school application
Ready to learn more? Let’s get started.
Hospice vs Hospital Volunteering
The process for applying for hospice volunteering roles is very similar to hospital volunteer opportunities. You’ll have to pass eligibility tests, background checks and attend an interview. You’ll also get training to help you manage clinical duties (if expected).
Here are the main pros and cons of each:
|PROS:||1. Can be more unique and educational (more scope for patient contact)|
2. More of a “realistic” view of medicine and patient care
|1. Greater opportunity to experience diverse areas of medicine (different wards etc.)|
2. Useful for further networking opportunities (shadowing, research roles etc.)
|CONS:||1. Limited in role (you’ll typically only see one area of medicine – geriatric care)|
2. More difficult to attain letters of recommendation (LOR’s) from reputable physicians
|1. Many roles put you away from direct patient contact (not counting as “clinical experience”)|
Obviously both opportunities give you the chance to play a very important role in the community and improve the lives of others. But, outside of being useful for your application, they can also be hard.
Volunteering at a hospice can be difficult as it’s extremely possible the elderly people in your care will die during your placement.
But it’s also a huge privelege to work with (and learn from) the elderly at the same time.
When hospice volunteering counts
Hospital volunteering counts as clinical experience when it:
- Puts you in direct contact with patients
- Gives you responsibility for some aspect of patient care
The more hours you’re involved doing these two things, the better it will look as clinical experience for your application.
When hospice volunteering doesn’t count
Just like hospital volunteering, hospice roles don’t always involve direct patient contact. There are lots of administrative, reception-based, office-based clerical roles that require volunteer assistance that otherwise don’t count for clinical experience for med school.
The best way to avoid being assigned such roles is to be clear about your intention for volunteering from the get-go.
Let coordinators know that you’re interested in healthcare-based roles and would like the chance to care (or learn about caring) for patients directly.
What is the role of a hospice volunteer?
Hospice volunteer work can be varied. Typically you’ll be expected to support hospice staff in their daily duties caring for and looking after patients under their care.
Some of the most basic things a hospice volunteer can do include:
- Talking to and comforting patients
- Entertaining or participating in activities with patients and staff
- Cleaning and tidying patient beds and hospice rooms
- Assisting patients in moving around (eating, bathing, going to the toilet etc.)
Usually the type of work is separated into direct and indirect.
Direct is that which involved patients, caregivers and families. It could include meal prep, household chores and providing transport.
Indirect work includes assistance in hospice organization. It typically includes administrative and office tasks like data entry, organizing community events and outings and preparing newsletters and mailings.
The websites of individual hospices usually detail the specifics of volunteer roles.
Here’s a better idea of hospice volunteering works, taken from the homepage of Hospice Foundation of America.
Volunteers are an integral part of the hospice team, filling roles that range from direct contact with patients to providing clerical and fundraising support for the organization. Hospices that participate with Medicare are required to utilize volunteers alongside their paid clinical and administrative staff. Hospice volunteers describe their work as gratifying, intellectually stimulating, and emotionally meaningful. Hospices require a lot from their volunteers and value them greatly.
How are hospice volunteer hours calculated
The specifics of how your hospice volunteer hours will be calculated will be organized between you and the coordinator.
As someone looking to put together an application for healthcare education, it’s a good idea to keep track of your hours yourself.
You’ll want to keep a record of the dates and times you contribute. As well as some brief notes about what you did and who you worked alongside.
Doing so will help you better represent your volunteering time on your application – as well as when asked about it in an interview!
What makes a good hospice volunteer?
It’s in your interest to be an effective hospice volunteer as it can help open further doors for you in terms of an application. Performing well and showing your diligence to work and contribute can also help make it easier for you to obtain quality references.
Good hospice volunteers should:
- Understand their roles, duties and the hospice philosophy of care
- Be strong and compassionate communicators (especially when it comes to patients, their families and friends)
- Understand how to assist patients and families with grief, loss and bereavement
- Know their boundaries and show sensitivity toward patient privacy
The best volunteers understand they’re there to learn and improve the lives of others. Using your iniative in a sensible way can really help you stand out.
What kinds of personal characteristics does a good hospice worker need?
Obviously empathy, compassion, understanding and a strong-work ethic lend themselves well to any hospice volunteering role.
Although you won’t get paid, acting professionally is essential.
How to talk about hospice volunteering when applying for med school?
As mentioned above, keeping track of your volunteer hours and what you’re doing can help you a lot when it comes to applications.
Here’s what you want to think about:
- Detailing any meaningful experiences that made you think more carefully or passionately about medical careers
- Showing how you assisted physicians and what insights you gained into their role and responsibilities
- Talking about the personal impact of hospice volunteering on your own life
If you didn’t gain much in the way of patient contact, there are still plenty of things you can discuss. Showing a keen understanding of hospice care, the challenges and opportunities involved and what you observed from the tasks and activities in your role can still go a long way on any application.
How to become a hospice volunteer?
The best way to become a hospice volunteer is to look for healthcare volunteering opportunities in your city (or local area).
A simple web search will bring up organizations close to you that you can then directly contact and ask for more information.
The best opportunities will offer support and training. Ask coordinators directly if you’re unsure whether the role you’re interested in offers this.
Is caregiver clinical experience?
Caregiving can definitely count as clinical experience. Most roles involve heavy patient contact. Despite a non-traditional setting.
Caregiving demonstrates you have a long term desire to help people with their health issues and that you have the right character to make a difference. But you should also get some hospital shadowing under your belt to round out your experiences and knowledge.
It’s best to get as diverse range of clinical experience as possible!
Is patient transport clinical experience?
Because it involves direct patient contact, i.e. lifting and assisting patients into a vehicle, it counts. As mentioned above, it’s best not to rely on it alone as clinical experience however and aim to find opportunities in a range of areas.
Hospice volunteering is a hugely important part of healthcare. Many hospices are completely manned by volunteers!
Spending time volunteering and working in such an environment shows good dedication to learning about healthcare, making you a more attractive candidate for med school, nursing or any other healthcare-related course.
If you enjoyed this post, you might find the following articles useful:
- Is Volunteering At A Hospital Worth It? (Major Pros & Cons)
- How To Volunteer At A Children’s Hospital (Explained For Beginners)
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.