Long volunteer waitlists at U-M Hospital cause frustration among students

Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - 1:23pm

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Design by Aya Salim

Volunteering in a clinical setting is an important part of pre-med students’ medical school applications. Each semester, there is a high demand for positions at the University of Michigan Hospital, the biggest and most accessible hospital on campus, with slots for attending an information session filling up within five minutes. 

After attending an information session, students are offered an interview on a lottery basis and then assigned a volunteer position based on their top three choices and time availability. Some students told The Daily they have found this process to be too long and sometimes frustrating. 

LSA sophomore Sadie Mauger said she has applied twice to volunteer through Michigan Medicine, but did not get an interview despite attending an information session. According to Mauger, the problem lies not only with capacity but with the process itself. She said the hospital was unclear when sharing interview times over the past year and was assigning time slots before people had finalized their schedules. 

“I think the most frustrating thing is that there is no seniority in terms of volunteer preference,” Mauger said. “I am applying to medical school, and I need that experience to apply, and I know that there are a lot of freshmen that are already volunteering, so seniority is something that would help the process.”

Though first-semester freshmen are not eligible to apply, the hospital does not have a preference among the other students during the hiring process. Returning volunteers have first pick at available positions at the beginning of each semester before new volunteers are registered

Catherine Marudo, Public Health junior and president of Phi Delta Epsilon, said she believes that despite the drawn-out process, it is still worth it to apply. She also advised students to have reasonable expectations.

“If you’re looking for clinical experience, it’s either a hit or a miss,” Marudo said. “You shouldn’t go in with the expectation that you will have patient experience since those clinical positions go really fast. But especially for pre-med students, any form of service in the long-term will go well with their application and they should keep reaching out, whether at U of M Hospital or elsewhere, to find those opportunities.”

LSA Honors Adviser Stephanie Chervin addressed the importance of clinical experience for pre-med students and advised students to apply to other clinical settings as well, such as the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, St. Joseph's Mercy and other clinics in the Ann Arbor area. 

She said she often comes across students who complain about the appointment slots filling up or missing deadlines.

“With the 10,000 pre-meds we have, it definitely is a stressful thing for our students trying to get into U of M Hospital,” Chervin said.

LSA junior Kateryna Karpoff is currently involved in the Hospital Elder Life Program, a program at the University Hospital. For those looking to volunteer, she advised reaching out to upperclassmen to understand which programs allow for more patient interaction.

“Not all volunteer positions are equal, you do kind of have to fight for the better ones (with patient interaction),” Karpoff said. “I think (initially applying to the hospital) is a good segue, just to get your name in the system, and then each semester, you can reach out to the departments and ask if you can be placed in a position you’re interested in.”

Loulie Meynard, director of volunteer services at the University Hospital, said the department has made changes to the process over the years in an attempt to make it fairer. 

She discussed how in previous years, students would grab whatever appointment time they saw open without considering their own class schedule. Realizing this was an issue, the department shifted to a lottery system and assigned appointment times based on the availability indicated in the student application form. 

“The only thing we got tripped up on this time was one of the info sessions was scheduled before anyone got their class schedules. So now we are really paying attention to when that works,” Meynard said.

Michigan Medicine has 1,604 active volunteers, according to Meynard. 

Meynard said it can be hard to manage all of them, but she said she attempts to work with students on a case-by-case basis if they’ve attended multiple information sessions without getting an interview by guaranteeing them one in the next cycle. 

“We have a wonderful, terrible problem,” Meynard said. “There are more people in this community who want to volunteer at Michigan Medicine than we have places to put them.”

Daily staff reporter Varsha Vedapudi can be reached at varshakv@umich.edu.