Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Hospital Volunteering Adventure: Foot-in-the-Door Series #8

keywords: hospital-based practice, volunteering, volunteering in healthcare facilities, non-clinical hospital volunteer work, clinical volunteer work in hospitals
"Volunteering is a valuable way to learn about hospital culture, generally, and specifically for your clinic (volunteering location).   When volunteering, you provide value to your clinic and the larger organization."  
"Volunteering is a useful way to meet potential future hospital sponsors and advocates.  It is a healthy way to make connections.  You have heard the saying 'It’s not what you know, it’s who you know'.  For L.Ac. s in hospital practice, it is both what you know and who you know.  You need both."

HIPAA = federal law on sharing of health information.  "health information portability and accountability act"
TB = tuberculosis
PPD = skin test for exposure for TB; done annually for all health care workers, paid and unpaid, at a facility.
BMI = body mass index
PRT = physical readiness training, a program unique to active duty military facilities (U.S.)

  • intro--what do I mean by volunteering?
  • non-clinical volunteer work
  • clinical volunteer work
  • review:  the volunteering adventure

This is the 8th post in the series answering the question, "How do I get my foot in the door of hospital practice?"  If you would like a copy of the download-able pdf of this series, pre-order it here.   To continue to follow our resources as we build them, sign up on our email list. You can help build resources for the community like this by sponsoring a newsletter, a project, or as simple as buying me a cup of coffee.

Volunteering in a Hospital Setting 
Volunteer work is usually more consistent than shadowing.  Time spent in volunteering is balanced on what you can give in time vs. what the facility or program needs.  This can be as intense as one 8-hour shift a week or as little as one 2-4 hour shift a month.  Less consistent volunteering (less than once a month) at a facility is usually discouraged because the volunteer coordinator needs to track all her current volunteers and that is easier to do when she knows when and where you usually report so she can help you stay consistent on your paperwork.
Such paperwork often includes, but is not limited to: HIPAA and privacy policy training, in-house policy training, flu shots, and TB skin test/PPD.

Non-Clinical Volunteer Work
Note: For the purpose of this post, "work" is short for "volunteer work".  

You can be the hospitality volunteer who brings the coffee cart around to the inpatient rooms, which might be every Thursday at 1000 with your volunteer partner Joyce.

You may do non-clinical work in your favorite specialty:  mother-baby unit, pain management, behavioral health, physical medicine and rehabilitation, sleep clinic, cancer care, pediatrics, etc. Or, you can work in department or clinic related to your field, such as wellness or health-promotion.

When I was a Red Cross volunteer at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, I started out helping wherever they could use me.  Nurse educators are awesome, by the way.  What they understand about health and wellness and decreasing the overall cost of healthcare by creating wellness and care management programs and promoting self-care is very much aligned with philosophies of care in East Asian Medicine.  

In the Wellness and Health Promotion department I started by sorting files and education materials and eventually was tasked to run a small walking program while the lead was deployed.  

Megan, Red Cross volunteer, staffing the StepWell Walking Program
 table at a health promotion fair at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, 
Portsmouth, Virginia
When I worked in the walking program, we did a lunchtime lecture series for the program participants where we coordinated speakers from several departments to talk about a subject related to health around walking.  Topics varied and included:  proper shoe wear, nutrition, weight management/BMI check, and stress management and speakers came from backgrounds of nutrition/dietetics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, behavioral health, diabetes management, tobacco cessation, physical readiness (PRT), and wellness/health promotion.  

I volunteered one full day a week for about 3 years.  I loved what I did and the people I volunteered for have been lifelong contacts and sources for great future job recommendations.  And, this was work in my field of “wellness and health promotion” without doing clinical work.

Clinical Volunteer Work
Volunteering as a clinician is possible, but not the first step I would try.  I recommend volunteering in a different capacity, non-clinical, and getting to know the local hospital culture and making contacts and understanding where your skills are most needed before jumping into volunteering as a clinician.  Also, as a clinician, remember your clinical skills are very valuable, so I don’t recommend volunteering full-time.  Keep it to once a month or, at most, just one short shift a week.  As part of the hospital-practice community, I have seen volunteering clinical skills work in these ways:
1.   Too much is given, and the hospital sponsor/department head does not value your work, practitioner burns out, and no L.Ac. is ever hired
2.    Just enough is given and well-executed with a team of advocates for your work in the hospital and they begin the long process of creating a paid part-time or full-time clinical position.  You apply and are hired.
3.    Same as #2, except when the position is announced, the volunteer applies, and someone else is hired
4.    Same as #2, and the in-house advocates obtain a stellar grant to hire you and 2 more L.Ac. positions into the program

So, while I recommend volunteering, when it comes to volunteering clinical skills:
  • I urge caution—pace yourself and don’t over-give
  • Develop a set of advocates in-house for what you are doing
  • Have a well-executed clinic plan, working with your advocates
  • Collect metrics—from as simple as patient satisfaction scores to adding in objective measurements or research-validated survey tools
    • Review your metrics data--feedback and outcomes 
    • Pass this data on to your advocates --> market your good work
    • For more about metrics and clinical outcomes for our field, see our growing resources under the tag/search item "metrics" in this blog, the website, and new courses
  • Be connected to the larger (national and international) hospital practice EAMP community to help you avoid re-inventing the wheel and learn from the mistakes of others.  
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket—when things don’t work out, be willing to adapt and/or move elsewhere

Review:  The Volunteering Adventure

Volunteering is a valuable way to learn about hospital culture, generally, and specifically for your clinic (volunteering location).   When volunteering, you provide value to your clinic and the larger organization.  Volunteering is a useful way to meet potential future hospital sponsors and advocates.  It is a healthy way to make connections.  You have heard the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.  For L.Ac. s in hospital practice, it is both what you know and who you know.  You need both.
Balance volunteer work with your other responsibilities.  Your volunteer work is valuable.  If you consistently feel your volunteer work is not valued, and on self-reflection, you are sure you are not being over-sensitive, it is time to stop, go back to your organization’s volunteer coordinator and request a new assignment.  Try a different clinic or supervisor or department if what you are in is not working.  Volunteering is about love (caritas, agape).  If it feels terrible, stop and change it up.
copyright Megan Kingsley Gale.  all rights reserved.
Do not reproduce without author's written permission

Thank you
Thank you for following this special series, answering the most common question I receive, "How do I get my foot in the door of hospital practice?".  You can catch up on the past posts here and pre-order the download-able pdf, which is a summary of all the posts in the series.  There is only one post left, the Summary and Resources.

Other Posts in this Special "How to Get Your Foot in the Door of Hospital Practice" series

  1. Basic Education and Licensing requirements  
  2. Enrich Your Foundation
  3. Pack Your Trail Bag
  4. Find Your Trail Guide
  5. What to Expect on Your Shadow Day
  6. As a New Employee, Shadow Your Clinical Team
  7. Shadow Physicians

Want to pre-order a pdf of this entire blogpost series?  Order here.

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