Department of Emergency Medicine Volunteer Program at LAC+USC

by Michael Cooper

The LAC+USC DEM volunteer program offers students the chance to observe and participate in the Los Angeles County General Hospital trauma center and earn a letter of recommendation upon completion 200 hours of service.

If accepted into the program, volunteers will have direct and unrestricted access to the county emergency room, a very rare opportunity.

“I don’t know of any other ER which has this,” said Lee Sladjer, Chief Physcian Assistant and founder of the program. “The DEM program allows volunteers to get a sense of who does what and a feel for the flow of the hospital,” an opportunity he calls “totally invaluable for anyone interested in the medical field.”

In order to become a member of the program, volunteers must be able to commit for 200 hours, which typically takes a year.  They must fill out an application, which determines if they will be interviewed.  If successful in the interview, volunteers must attend a monthly ten-hour orientation, submit to a background check, and undergo testing for tuberculosis.

“We have about 140 volunteers at the moment…which we calculated to provide the hospital with 3000 man-hours a month,” Sladjer said.

Volunteers are given a choice of available shifts, which are four hours in duration.  While working, volunteers are charged with duties such as patient transport, stocking rooms, preparing beds, as well as assisting the nurses and doctors in their clinical duties.

However, these duties are only a small portion of the volunteers’ experience.  In-between their duties, volunteers are free to walk the ER where they can interact with medical staff, meet other volunteers as well as observe procedures and in some cases, assist, said Sladjer

“I saw an eighteen year old with a gunshot wound to the chest come in, and I was able to see the doctors perform a thoracotomy,” said Sunita Boparai, a pre-med sophomore at Mt. San Antonio College. “It was amazing.”

The program offers more than just the opportunity to obtain clinical experience, a crucial part of any aspiring student’s medical application.

According to USC sophomore Alex Rodriguez, a DEM volunteer with over 2500 registered hours, the program offers more than just the opportunity to obtain clinical experience.

“This program has allowed me to be able to understand this hospital’s structure,” Rodriguez said. “It has given me the understanding of what I need to do to become a doctor as well as build a network to establish a foundation for a medical career,”

When asked if they would recommend the program to others, the volunteers interviewed gave an enthusiastic yes.

Said Boparai: “I love this shift, I love this hospital, I love it all.”

Students interested in the DEM program can find more info here.

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