How Many Volunteer Hours For PA School

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More volunteer opportunities exist for students in the physician assistant program than for students at the bachelor’s level. Volunteering isn’t an option for most students while they’re still in school. A blog recommends shadowing a PA as a way to learn more about the field. Attracting the PA’s attention and convincing her to let you tag along with her will require some ingenuity. It is better to have a small clinic than a large one or a hospital. Due to HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations, the latter may be reluctant to accept volunteers. Individuals’ privacy is safeguarded by the law, which places restrictions on who can see their medical records.


You can begin your search for volunteer work as an undergraduate by looking for opportunities in the health care field. Despite HIPPA, hospitals require volunteers to fill a variety of roles, including assisting full-time employees, welcoming patients and their families, and handling clerical tasks. Volunteer opportunities abound at research hospitals like St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. As a volunteer, you may be able to interact with the children who are patients or recommend accommodations for their parents, for instance.

If you’re a resident of Memphis, you can apply to St. Jude’s for students over the age of 18. They require a weekly or monthly commitment of at least three times. The Art Gallery has a number of storage spaces designated for things like art and craft supplies. Outside of the hospital, there are a number of areas that need to be taken care of. The St. Jude’s Tri Delta Place housing facility has a volunteer program that allows residents to help out with various tasks such as light housekeeping, organizing toys and games, serving meals, preparing bagged snacks, working as a concierge, and delivering amenities to guests.

Military veterans’ group

A VA facility or hospital may also be a good option if you live near one. Volunteers are welcome at the VA North Texas Health Care System, for example, to gain experience in a variety of positions. Some of the duties include:

  • Parking that is taken care of for you
  • Ambassadors and Greeters
  • The Help Desk
  • Activities for a Good Time
  • Assist With Rehab
  • The person in charge of organizing special events.
  • QA (Quality Control)

If a volunteer’s work puts them in close proximity to patient care, some hospitals will accept them as an observer. Shadowing/Clinical Observation opportunities are available to students over the age of 18 at the University of Colorado (UC). As an example, the Broomfield Hospital is looking for volunteers 14 and older who are willing to commit to working twice a month for six months. Working in the Rehab Unit would give you little hands-on experience with patient care because your responsibilities would be limited to communicating with, greeting, and admitting them. It is possible, however, that after reaching the age of eighteen, you will become more involved with patients.


Volunteering at a hospice can be a rewarding experience for those who are able to relate to the elderly. Volunteers visit the elderly, assist licensed caregivers, and run errands for those who are confined to their homes as part of the programs offered by the organizations. Some of the other things that can be done with the patient include reading, making crafts, playing card and board games, or listening to music. Sadly, hospice care necessitates sitting with a patient as he or she nears the end of life, whose presence can provide comfort. Eleventh Hour Volunteers fill this role of assistance.

A comparison of the PCE and HCE

Healthcare experience is distinct from patient care experience (PCE) (HSE). In your PA school interview, you can talk about any of the volunteer opportunities listed above. This doesn’t mean that they can’t provide direct patient care as required by PA programs. The number of hours required varies from school to school and can reach up to several hundred hours of hands-on care with actual patients.. Students at Des Moines University are required to have worked or volunteered for at least 750 hours in a medical facility.

The Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) states that PCE must be practical in nature in order to qualify. PCE-eligible jobs include those that require technicians to draw blood or record vital signs under the supervision of a nurse. With the supervision of an OB/GYN, PA, or MD, research coordinators may interact with patients in clinical trials.

While medical mission work is expensive, it provides an alternative way to gain the necessary patient experience. Some of the responsibilities include drawing blood, checking vitals, tracking lab results, and administering first aid to minor wounds.

Bottom Line

There is much more to getting into a PA program than grades, extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation. It is possible that students with a greater number of PCE hours will have an advantage in these highly competitive programs. One reason why 79% of applicants have worked in the medical field is because of this. Examples include nurses, paramedics, radiology technicians, occupational therapists, and a long list of other professionals in this field.

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