Category Archives: Volunteer

Posts relating to volunteering, be it at the hospital or elsewhere, will go here.

Ruckus In The OR

operating room

Image via Wikipedia

It was a good ruckus at least. No one coded on the table or anything crazy. I just told my supervisor that I had gotten into med school.

All heck broke loose…

He gave me this huge grin and started going on about how he knew I’d get in. I laughed, thanking him for his help in getting in to see surgeries and just for being a great guy. He turned to the passing head nurse, whom I knew well having talked to her at length about my CNA experiences, and told her the news. She in turn started congratulating me and the cycle started anew. Now I thought that all but one person I think I need to tell knew now. Boy was I wrong…

My supervisor then jokingly told the head scrub nurse to make an announcement. I laughed thinking how crazy that would be…then she did it. Oh my god, word travels fast around a hospital! People I had only talked to in passing and talked briefly with over the last eight months were congratulating me when we passed that day. I was not ready for the back slapping, hand shaking, congratulating that I got when I delivered the last round of supplies with an order to run code checks on the mesh supplies cart in the central OR room hub.

The surgical services head, the man who showed me the OR on my first day volunteering there, upon hearing the news pulled me into a hug and was totally swept up with happiness and admiration. I’m touched by the outpouring of well-wishes and support that I have received from this hospital and the people who work here. I will never forget this sense of community that these people have. I will strive to do my best to cultivate the same relationships with all of my fellow med students, nurses, residents, or doctors that I come across.


Posted by on April 22, 2011 in Volunteer


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Blissful Silence

There’s something magical about getting up at 5:30am, showering, and spending some early hours working on stocking the OR supplies before everyone else gets there. The sanitation services and OR stock room at my local hospital are incredibly quiet (almost) as most of the employees don’t start getting in until around 8am. It’s just me, a wall full of unsorted supplies, and the sound of my footsteps along the corridors. I can get lost in my thoughts and really just relax. There’s no grad school assignments here, no lab work here, no med school worries here. Just the supplies I stick into the little plastic basket and wander with, and they don’t do much talking. Sometimes I’ll see a man coming off the night shift from working supplies for the trauma surgeries in the OR core. He’ll smile and nod to me, never saying much more than, “Hey man,”.

These are the moments I enjoy. The moments where I can set aside everything else, if only for a little while. It’s a walking mediation of sorts for me. It’s better than a vacation in some ways. Stepping out of that little bubble of  tranquility and back on the street after I’m finished with all my work brings all the worries and to-do lists swirling back with the breeze that tugs at my scrubs. And yet, I look to the sky and I smile. I wouldn’t trade this life for anything. I am content.


Posted by on April 1, 2011 in Personal, Volunteer


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Watching A Spinal Surgery

Spinal Fusion

Sorry about the lack of updates. Life has been crazy busy with research, classes, job hunting, and studying(up to my eyeballs). Wanted to post really quick about the spinal surgery I shadowed while volunteering. It was different from the other couple surgeries I’ve seen. It was longer(almost 3 hours, not counting patient prep time) and I had more time to interact with the head surgeon before going in, which was nice. The surgery was a lumbar interbody infusion with instrumentation.

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Posted by on March 10, 2011 in Volunteer


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HIPPA: My first encounter

I was all set to go in to view an operation this last week. It was to be a great opportunity: a video assisted laproscopic procedure to operate on the lungs of a patient. However, just after they’d put the patient under I got a call that I need to leave the OR and see the head of the section I volunteered in. Turns out the charge nurse got wind that I was in there and said that I would need written consent from the patient to view the surgery. That’s kinda hard to do when the patient is out cold. This sucks since I had gotten permission from the surgeon doing the procedure and knew one of the nurses on duty as well. But still, HIPPA must be respected. Right? I don’t know a lot about the in’s and out’s of the law actually. Does anyone know more about HIPPA that could point me to a site explaining the legal nuances of it so that I may better avoid let downs like the one this week, or even be able to argue my case that I’m in the right next time? Cheers everyone! 🙂

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Posted by on January 23, 2011 in Volunteer


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Etiquette for Shadowing in the OR

My First OR Experience

Yesterday I had the privilege to stand in on a procedure in the local hospital’s OR. It was a great learning experience, not in a medical knowledge sense, but definitely in a medical etiquette sense.

Things to remember in the OR:

1. Don’t touch the blue stuff…ever…no matter how shiny it might be!
2. Always ask where to stand. No, at the surgeon’s side is not usually best.
3. You will be amazed at the amount of gauze and covers used to keep the patient as sterile as possible. And yeah, it all gets thrown away afterward. Surgery is not for the “tree hugger” types. 😛
4. Things will get messy sometimes. (More gruesome details to come possibly in a later post!)
5. People look funny inside. Not at all like Gray’s Anatomy text shows it. There’s bumps and wierd thingys hanging oddly. (I’m sure the Doc knows all about it though. Resist the urge to shout that you see something odd and send the OR team into a slight panic. :P)
6. The OR is nothing like on TV. The lights are all on(no one works in the dark with only the operating lights on) and there are not always fancy monitors everywhere.

Remember: DON’T PANIC!

Be polite and respect the fact that you’re being allowed to observe something that many will never get a chance to watch first hand. Try to ask some semi-intelligent questions after the procedure is done if you get the chance. You might find you click with the doctor and get invited to another procedure. Overall I gotta say “It’s an AWESOME experience!” I can only hope to see some more soon.


Posted by on November 16, 2010 in Volunteer


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Get better assignments as a volunteer – Part 2

Part 2 of my quest to get a better volunteer position at a local hospital. If haven’t done so already, you can read part 1 first.

After wandering the halls for a while, following the directory signs, and asking people for help I made it to the volunteer director’s office. The door was ajar and the glow spilling out into the hall told me that someone was in. Tentatively, I stepped forward knocking lightly before peaking around the door. The director looked up from her desk and asked if she could help me. I smiled and nodded, stepping fully into the office now.

Spinning My Story

I explained to her that I was a graduate student who was looking into going to medical school upon graduation. She seemed interested in my story and eager to help. She told me that they had a position at the hospice affiliated with the hospital working with compiling the medical records if I was interested. She admitted that most of it would consist of simply filing papers and might not be what I was looking for exactly. I explained again that I was looking more for a position where I would be able to interact with doctors or at least see what they did(more so than ED if possible).

Faint Glimmer of Hope

She frowned at lapsed into thought for a little. When she looked back at me a small smile touched her features. “How do you feel about working in the OR,” she asked. My eyes would have probably bulged out of my sockets if I hadn’t kept a tight control on my excitement. “What sort of work do you mean,” I asked hesitantly, knowing the patient recovery rooms in the OR dealt with the same things the ED did. “Oh, this is something more hands on for sure and I think you’ll get to meet a lot of doctors too. Let me make a call first and see what the situation is like down there,” she replied.

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Posted by on November 2, 2010 in Motivational, Volunteer


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Get better assignments as a volunteer – Part 1

When it came to my first day volunteering in the ED of the local hospital, the experience was mixed. I was glad to be helping, but I was plagued by thoughts that I was doing this for entirely selfish reasons. Having had time to reflect on this first day and having gone back again for another shift days later, I think many of these feeling were brought up by being let down in a lot of ways.

Broken Dreams

When I first signed up to volunteer I had this notion that I would be helping nurses and doctors with the patients. The reality of the situation, with all the liability concerns and HIPAA regulations, was far from what I’d imagined. There was little to no doctor contact with my position, and the nurses, while they were friendly and nice, were unable to allow me to do much. After going back a second time I was able to judge things more logically and was better able to appreciate the little things I could do for the patients.

Doing My Research Like A Good Geek Should

I had read many threads on SDN(Share Your Hospital Volunteer Experience, My Life Changing Volunteer Experience, and Getting great volunteer experience?) the night before, looking desperately to see if Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on November 1, 2010 in Motivational, Volunteer


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