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Volunteer Diary: Day 7

July 29th, 2011  |  Published in Volunteering

From my experience volunteering, I am hoping that I learn to enjoy waking up early and how to get places on time. I signed up for a morning shift on the surgery unit because that is when the ward is more exciting. In the late afternoon, patients are getting discharged, and no one stays over night on Friday since the surgery unit is closed on the weekends.

In suburbia, when the sparse public transit system is delayed due to power outages, everyone takes to the road. So I crawled through traffic and arrived at the hospital, embarrassed to be late. Fortunately, the hospital ward was really slow today. Most of the incoming patients would arrive long after I had left for the day. Unfortunately, this meant there wasn’t very much to do.

After volunteering for seven weeks–I can’t believe it has been that long–I finally know what I can do that doesn’t require permission from the nurses. That is, restock everything and organize the food pantry. One thing I like about volunteering consistently is that the refrigerator is organized the way that I like it. This makes my job easier when I restock because I arranged it specially so that everything fits properly. Mostly, I like the new organization so that there isn’t another soda-explosion-cleaning-fest.

I despise cleaning, but enjoy volunteering. I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I am often somewhat grossed out while cleaning, but on the upside I can sanitize the entire place and feel comfortable there. Some people don’t mind being around body fluids because it is “natural,” but all I can think of is the loads of infectious bacteria lurking between the sheets of the patients. The surgeries from which the patients on our ward are recovering range from Whipple procedures to penile prosthesis removal, nothing that brings oodles of bacteria to mind. But bacteria are ever present in the air, and I always imagine that the patients could have some sort of infection that could get on the sheets. This might be somewhat irrational, and I certainly don’t throw my scrubs in the incendiary after leaving the hospital, but I always wear gloves and take caution to not rub the sheets against my bare skin.

Other things I throw away in the patients’ room are partially eaten food (which doesn’t disgust me after working in the food industry) and whatever else the patients leave behind. This week I threw away a phone number to the local pharmacy, which I felt bad about, but the patient was long gone and I’m sure he has a phone book or the internet. Plus he may have entered it in his phone, and I don’t need to waste everyone’s time chasing him down to give him redundant information. Last month there was a bag of 5% Dextrose (used in IVs) in the sink so I tossed it in the trash without asking the nurses if I should have put it in some sort of bio-hazard bag. But it’s not like the blood flows upward to the bag, so I think it is okay.

waiting room flickr/joyoflifeBecause things were so slow in the ward, my fellow volunteer and I decided to restock the pre-admit clinic. I had never really spent much time in the pre-admit, but it resembles a family physician’s office. There is a receptionist, charts, and a waiting room. A small hallway leads to private consultation rooms where the nurses tell the patient details about the procedure and take baseline stats (blood pressure, weight, etc.) of the patient before they would go to surgery. I’m not sure if patients visit pre-admit right before surgery, or days before. But, there is little to restock in pre-admit. Mostly we chatted and admired the ugly out-dated framed print paintings on the wall.

Most of the nurses thought that I was going to stop volunteering at the end of the summer, but I want to stay on throughout the time I have left to spend in my hometown (which depends on if I get accepted to a post-bacc.) There is a high school student volunteering program at my hospital; those students quit volunteering at the end of the summer after volunteering 40 hours of time. I am actually considering beginning to volunteer at the local public hospital in addition to the private hospital in which I volunteer now. But, not having a job, gas prices, and my full school schedule this upcoming fall might keep me from doing so. I am not sure if volunteering at the public hospital will be significantly different than what I do now. Luckily, I know someone who knows someone who is part of a special program at the public hospital, so I will be able to ask their opinion.

Do you guys have any opinion on the experiences volunteering in a private versus a public hospital? Let me know in the comments!

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