Our volunteers were honored for their selfless donation of time and skills during a National Volunteer Weekcelebration in April. Numbering more than 230, these physicians, nurses, interpreters, screeners and administrative assistants contribute 25,000 hours to care for nearly 3,000 low-income Connecticut residents each year.
“Our volunteers are the heart and soul of our program,” said AmeriCares Free Clinics Associate Director Terri McCartney, who is in charge of volunteer recruitment. “We couldn’t keep our doors open without them.”
More than two-thirds of our volunteers have medical expertise – physicians, nurses, medical assistants and nurse practitioners. Many have been volunteering since our first clinic opened in 1994.
“All have the medical knowledge, as well as the compassion and understanding to make patients feel better, get well and stay healthy,” McCartney said. “But it takes more than medical skills to run a free clinic. We also need skilled interpreters and volunteers to help screen patients for eligibility.”
The volunteer screener doesn’t just collect demographic information; he or she has to put new patients at ease, recognizing that making the decision to seek help from a free clinic is not always easy for patients.
Interpreters ensure non-English speaking patients accurately convey their symptoms and medical history to the provider. Sensitive to cultural differences, they also ensure patients understand the provider’s instructions before they leave, knowing many are too timid to ask for clarification of treatment protocols.
Administrative volunteers help with events, pull charts, make referrals, place phone calls and anything that needs to get done. By supplementing our small staff, they allow us to devote more resources to patient care.
“No matter their skills, our volunteers all form strong bonds with patients,” McCartney said. “Patients give hugs and home-baked goods, but the best reward is seeing them get better.”