March 20, 2011 - 4:37pm
BY MELISSA MARCUS
Though many pre-health students spend much of their time focused on acing their organic chemistry exams and MCATS, one student group is working to give them a way to spend their free time that may help in their future careers.
Founded during the 2007-2008 school year, Hospice Student Companions allows students to volunteer at nursing homes and work with hospice patients.
The goal of the group is to make students more aware of patients living in hospice, and to create an arena for students to volunteer their services, according to LSA senior Anna Chase, co-founder and president of Hospice Student Companions.
The club works with the Howell-based nursing home, the Howell Care Center, where volunteers visit patients, most of whom are 85 years of age and older and are given six months or less to live, according to Chase. Some students also visit hospice patients in their own homes, she said.
Prior to the club’s formation, working with hospice patients was typically an option reserved only for pre-med students. Chase said the club was created so that all students who express an interest in the medical field can volunteer.
“The actual volunteer work is my favorite,” Chase said. “I love when you walk into the room and see the patient light up and smile.”
The club has about 40 members who are trained to become hospice volunteers by professionals from In-House Hospice, located in Southfield, Mich.
Chase said student volunteers play an important role in hospice patients’ lives by providing them with companionship. Most volunteers work one-on-one with a patient once a week. During this time they talk, play cards or help the patient create a “life review,” which is a journal documenting the patient’s life memories.
In addition to educating the campus community on the importance of hospice patients through the club, Chase also said she hopes to organize seminars on grief management to educate the community.
Kinesiology junior Christina Monolo, a member of Hospice Student Companions, volunteers at the Hillside Terrace Nursing Home. Monolo, a pre-med student, said she wanted to get volunteer experience working with patients but was hesitant to volunteer at a hospital because she wanted to work directly with the patients rather than do remedial tasks.
“I wanted to volunteer with hospice patients because I wanted to be the last impression on their life,” Monolo said. “My favorite part of volunteering is being the highlight of the patient’s week and making their day.”