If you have read anything that I have written about BS/MD programs, you know that I think health care volunteering is critical. If you want to be a successful candidate for a BS/MD program, you must have some health care volunteering and ideally several years of consistent volunteering. Even if you are interested in traditional pre-med options, heath care volunteering is something to seriously consider. So what do you do when many health care facilities don’t allow volunteers because of Covid? You engage in virtual health care volunteering.
For traditional health care volunteering I often recommend a nursing home, dementia facility or hospitals where you, the student, can actually work with patients. Virtual health care volunteering involves helping out at a health care facility when you can’t do so in person. So what does that look like?
Many nursing homes will have computers available for use by their residents. I have had a number of students buy computer cameras and donated those cameras to the nursing home. If you do something like this, it is helpful if you can explain to the staff at the nursing home how to set the camera up. Once you are up and running, you need to schedule appointments with residents that have an interest in visiting with someone outside the nursing home. Ideally, the resident should be able to connect to you very simply since many residents of nursing homes aren’t very tech savvy. One of my students had the connection set up so residents of the nursing home literally just had to hit 1 button to connect to the student.
Some other students went old school and set up pen pal type relationships with residents of a nursing home. The student would write an actual letter and mail it to the nursing home and one of the residents would then write back to the student. Even though in this circumstance you aren’t seeing the resident at all, you can still develop a close relationship to the resident which is the real point of this type of volunteering.
Still others have found online health care volunteering opportunities of many different types. One of my favorites was working at a crisis line for teens struggling during the pandemic. Because the connection was by phone or online, there was no direct contact but the student was able to provide valuable help to other students struggling with mental health issues.
There are many options out there for virtual health care volunteering. Here are a few sites that have multiple options included: 7 Pre-Health Virtual Volunteering Opportunities to Consider During Social Distancing, Clinical Volunteering in Community Engagement, and Covid Virtual Volunteering Activities.
As with any health care volunteering, there is no one perfect virtual health care volunteering option. Find something that you enjoy doing that helps someone else and get involved for as long as you can. That will start you on the track to a successful BS/MD application.