Posted December 5, 2017

Temple students make impact one patient at a time

Temple students intern and volunteer their time at Temple University Hospital through the At Your Service Volunteer Intern Program, which helps address the needs of patients and their families.
Photography By: 
Jose Mendoza
The At Your Service Volunteer Intern Program at Temple University Hospital provides opportunities for students to gain non-clinical experience in the medical field, allowing them to work as ambassadors to improve patient experiences during hospital visits.
Temple University Hospital’s patients can spend extended amounts of time in and out of hospital stays and procedures, and the health system has found an innovative way to support them and their families while they face health issues: student volunteers. 
Temple Health’s At Your Service Volunteer Intern Program provides non-clinical learning opportunities to undergraduate students looking to gain experience in the medical field. Students must work a minimum of six hours per week, but many exceed those hours, becoming deeply invested in their patients, as they can see up to 50 a day.
Students engage with inpatient and outpatient units and assist with greeting and helping visitors at the concierge desk. Some units where the students work include the Intensive Care Unit, Post-anesthesia Care Unit, Emergency Department, Radiology Department and Cancer Center.
“The volunteers have been a valued and comforting ally to the patients and staff of the 6 West Lung Center Unit,” said Vincent Burkhimer, nurse manager of the unit, named for its location on the hospital’s sixth floor. “They serve as an additional resource in patient care, compassion and advocacy. They can often be seen interacting in therapeutic dialogue, participating in diversional activities or even asking the clinical team members how they can be of service. Our patients and pulmonary care providers know the At Your Service interns’ role is an important one, and they certainly add quality to the patient experience.” 
Many students learn about the program through the Office of Pre-Professional Health Studies’ annual Pre-Health Resource Fair, where students have the opportunity to speak with admissions representatives from more than 60 health departments across all areas of pre-health for volunteer and internship opportunities. Luke Bernardo, a former intern who now works as a clinical research associate at Fox Chase Cancer Center, said he found the internship after one of his professors recommended that he attend a Pre-Health Resource Fair. 
“I was lucky to come across this program and applied for a position,” he said. “My first year I was working with the Trauma Unit and then later moved into the Emergency Department working with patients and their families.”
The program started in summer 2014 with 15 interns and has grown rapidly since, with 85 interns currently participating. Students come to the program from various majors, including computer science, history, marketing, mathematics, mechanical engineering and Spanish, among others.
“When we explore new areas in the hospital for our interns to work, we always ask that department what their ‘wishlist’ is or if they need help in a certain area, because we have the manpower to assist them,” explained Danielle London, supervisor for patient and family engagement. 
The program also partners with the Office of Patient Experience to improve hospital visits for patients and their families while providing students with familiarity working in a hospital setting, teaching them to effectively communicate and interact with several patients and families each day.
For Sruthi Gohimukkula, a current intern in the program who is applying to medical school, interning has provided invaluable experience.
“There is value in going into a hospital and seeing a side of it that’s not always what a doctor does or what a nurse does, but to be able to learn how to communicate with patients and their families,” Gohimukkula said.