By Stan DeVore, WMC volunteer and University of Wyoming premed student
It is widely known in the premed world that you don’t have a chance in getting into medical school without some degree of volunteer experience in a medical environment. As an aspiring physician entering my third year of undergrad at the University of Wyoming and only a few more years away from applying to medical schools, I am no exception to this rule.
Before my experience at the Wyoming Medical Center (WMC), I had often wondered: Why do medical schools see medical volunteer work as so important? After over 100 volunteer hours at WMC, I discovered the secret: it’s not about observing the medical staff; it’s about being a part of it.
At WMC, I volunteered 8 hours a week on the medical floor and 12 in the emergency room. During the first few days, I will admit that I felt pretty uncomfortable. I had never been around patients on a consistent basis, never been surrounded by busy physicians and nurses, nor did I feel like I had an important role as a volunteer. If I had only volunteered a few hours per week, I probably would have felt uncomfortable volunteering forever. But with constant interaction with the staff, this discomfort quickly disappeared as I learned that I was playing an actual role in the hospital — I was not just someone extra floating along in the periphery. I was being integrated into the medical staff.
In the ER, for example, I started to build trust and friendships with many of the nurses, who in turn began to depend upon me to complete certain tasks. One of my major responsibilities was restocking rooms with supplies and linens — a time-consuming yet important job. Before I began to volunteer, the nurses and technicians had this responsibility in addition to the other work they needed to do. However, on the days I volunteered, they simply left the job to me, trusting that it was something I would immediately take care of when I punched in. Instead of a volunteer doing random meaningless tasks, I was doing something important. Rather than the random college kid in a blue volunteer vest, I felt like a coworker.
Everybody at WMC treated me remarkably well, made me part of their team, and truly gave me the experience that I needed to get out of my volunteering: knowing what it is like to have a responsibility in a medical environment. That made all the difference between feeling like I was there just to look good on a med-school application and feeling like it was an experience that was necessary to have. It’s because of my 20 hours per week at WMC that I understand why med schools see volunteering in a medical environment as such a vital aspect of an applicant.
That’s the secret. That is how WMC has made an impact on my life. And I can almost guarantee that if someone consistently devotes time as a volunteer, WMC will make an impact on their life as well.
Become a junior volunteer
Wyoming Medical Center’s new junior volunteer program offers young people many ways to make a difference in the lives of patients. This summer’s crop of volunteers helped on the medical floor, delivered books and magazines to patients, worked in surgical staging and performed other needed duties.
“The junior volunteers program is designed to give students experiences that will help them determine if they want a career in health care. It helps participants see the value in the work they are aspiring to do, and the kind of nurse or doctor they want to be,” said Jillian Riddle, volunteer coordinator.
Junior volunteers can help throughout the year. Wyoming Medical Center is also always looking for adult volunteers to help in the Cottage Gift Shop, greeting visitors and patients, deliver flowers and more. For more information, visit the volunteers’ page on our website.
* Junior volunteers: Junior volunteers must be at least 16 years or older, advance through the application and interview process and pass a background check. Find the application here.
* Adult volunteers: Fill out the adult application here.
Stan DeVore is a third-year student at the University of Wyoming and is majoring in Physiology with a Spanish minor. He is an active member of the Honors Program, the president of the Wyoming Honors Organization (WHO) and works at a botany lab on campus. He intends to use his degree and his outgoing personality to become a successful Wyoming physician—a career goal he has been passionate about since high school, when he first decided his combined love for people, puzzles and science could someday improve the lives of people in the Wyoming community.