Even as physical distancing and public health remain of utmost importance, there are an increasing number of opportunities to support your communities safely as we all continue to protect the health of people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. Many are sharing resources. The Morgridge Center has excellent ideas. Idealist gives a great overview. And we offer a number of additional (and overlapping) resources and ideas in the menu below. There are many ways to use time well during the pandemic. In addition to looking for ways to be involved through volunteering, internships, and paid work, we encourage you to take time to learn, reflect, grow, and connect with people (including health professionals) in other ways as well.
And a featured recommendation: Health Careers with Dr. Marn is a highly helpful and informative podcast. He interviews health professionals from diverse fields. Check it out. And listen to our very own Dija Selimi, PhD, join three other pre-health advisors talk about how to use time well during the pandemic in a recent episode!
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You can be an active, helpful member of your community during the pandemic. The following are ideas from the National Association of Advisors for Health Professions (NAAHP) and some that CPHA has collected for you to consider.
Start with people and organizations you know:
- Volunteer to cover childcare needs for neighbors or to check in (by phone/from a distance) on older adults.
- Check with organizations where you have volunteered in the past to see if you can step back into previous roles.
- If you’re part of a religious community, see if there are ways you can provide support through them.
Look for new opportunities:
- Use Idealist, VolunteerMatch, VolunteerYourTime (Dane County), and Omprakash to seek other local options, but be ready for slow responses.
- Volunteer with the Medical Reserve Corps.
- Donate blood and volunteer to help the Red Cross address blood delivery and donation support needs in your community. (Remote volunteering options exist for those at high risk.)
- Check to see if Meals on Wheels needs more volunteers in your community.
- Food pantries, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters in most areas are continuing to look for volunteers and have been trying to maintain social distance for their volunteers and those they serve. Feeding America can help students to find their local food pantry.
- United Way have updated their volunteer opportunities to show all the local non-profits seeking help. You can also find your local United Way chapters as well — e.g., United Way of Wisconsin.
- If you’ve received crisis hotline training, check to see if your community’s crisis hotline could use additional phone or chat volunteers. Many crisis hotlines are overloaded right now. If you haven’t received training, become a Crisis Text Line Counselor.
- JustDane Healing House (post-operative care center for people experiencing homelessness)
- Baylor University offers a list of 25 ways to volunteer virtually.
- DoSomething shares 9 ways to volunteer online.
- Be an online tutor:
- Become a Crisis Text Line Counselor (requires 30 hours of training).
- Assist in digitizing, transcribing and otherwise contributing to nonprofit organizations.
Connect with a Student Org
There are hundreds of student orgs on our campus. Connecting with students in orgs can be a great way to develop friendships, learn about a particular focus area (e.g., health equity, ballroom dancing, being a pre-health student), and to invest time and energy in causes you care about (e.g., increasing awareness of cardiac health and neurogenerative disorders, raising money for cancer research, recruiting bone marrow donors, and more). Many student orgs are finding ways to volunteer and continue to build experience during the pandemic — even as they meet and work virtually.
You can search for student orgs in the Wisconsin Involvement Network (WIN). You can also see a list of pre-health orgs on our website. Have a look, but we encourage you not to limit yourself to these. There are so many orgs you could join. The org you join does not have to be a pre-health org. Relatedly, you do not have to be in a student org to get into a health professional program. Orgs are great for students who want to enrich their college experience in this way. Think of your org experience enriching your preparation for a health professional program as a byproduct of the broader life enrichment that can happen when you dedicate yourself to causes and people you care about.
NOTE: When you reach out to an organization, if you do so through social media, you will often get a faster response than using the contact information provided in WIN.
Get Patient Care Training for a Job in Healthcare
Medical Assistant Training. Learn how to become a Medical Assistant and how to advance in this field.
A more affordable CNA training option: WisCaregiver Careers
And learn more about Nurse Aide training in Wisconsin: Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
CPR and additional BLS courses: Center for Health Education and Simulation
There are four levels of Emergency Medical Service Providers: Medical First Responder, EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate/Intermediate Technician, and EMT-Paramedic. Learn about Certified EMT Training Centers in Wisconsin here. And find information about EMT training at Madison Area Technical College can be found here.
CPR and AED Training. Every month, the UW Police Department offers Heartsaver® CPR AED, a classroom, video-based, instructor-led course that teaches adult CPR and AED use, as well as how to relieve choking on an adult. This course teaches skills with research-proven Practice-While-Watching (PWW) technique, which allows instructors to observe the students, provide feedback and guide the students’ learning of skills. This course is for anyone with limited or no medical training. The cost of the instructor-led, certified course is $55. See course dates and register online here.
National Outdoor Leadership School – Wilderness First Aid Training. Prepare for the unexpected with this fun, hands-on introduction to wilderness medicine, taught over two days. If you like to take short trips relatively close to medical resources (EMS response in less than eight hours), work at wilderness camps, enjoy weekend family outdoor activities, or recreation outdoors, this course is for you. Learn more here.
National Outdoor Leadership School – Wilderness First Responder Training. If you work or recreate in the outdoors or in other austere environments where access to medical care is delayed or communication is unreliable, this 9-10 day Wilderness First Responder course is for you! It is the industry standard for professional guides, trip leaders, search and rescue team members, outdoor recreationists, and international travelers. Learn more here.
The Center for Healthy Minds: Compassion Training. Compassion is the feeling of caring for and wanting to help others who are suffering. Compassion meditation is like training the compassion muscle, starting with the lightest weight of a loved one and working up to a heavier weight of a difficult person. Online compassion training is free and available here.
Suicide Prevention Training for UW-Madison Students. This training, available for free on Canvas, aims to build your capacity to support one another and provides local and national resources that are available if you or a friend needs help. This training is not a form of counseling; it’s a training for bystanders on how to support a peer in distress. The full training takes 75 to 90 minutes to complete, and you can start, stop, and return to the training at any point. Join the training here.
Find an Internship
Use the great resources provided by SuccessWorks on finding an internship — including micro-internships.
Find a Job Outside of Healthcare (or in healthcare off campus)
If you would prefer not to seek employment in a healthcare setting, looking for paid positions outside of healthcare is a very productive thing to do. Being gainfully employed in any kind of position gives you opportunities to grow in responsibility, reliability, work ethic, communication skills, teamwork, discipline, and more. When you apply to health professional programs, the maturity you gain as a paid employee in any field will be evident. Admissions committees are pleased when applicants are able to talk about what you learned, how you grew, and why you value your work experience with good insight and reflection. This includes but is not limited to positions in healthcare fields.
Get started looking for jobs:
Shadow and Connect with Health Professionals
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when it is not possible for students to shadow in healthcare settings, you can still reach out to healthcare providers to see if they have time to talk with you by phone or in a video chat about their careers. When you ask to meet, always show sensitivity to the fact that they may have added responsibilities at work due to the pandemic. Some may not be able to meet. But others will and will want to give time to you. You can always reach out and see if providers have time for, and interest in, a meeting — and they can offer the time they have and want to give!
In addition, there are increasing opportunities to shadow virtually. Check out the following and find more!
- Webshadowers (physician shadowing)
- MedSchool Coach Beyond Shadowing
- Teleshadowing (physician shadowing)
- Physician Assistant Shadowing Online
- Ampers&PA Virtual Shadowing
You can also reach out to alumni who are current students in health professional programs or already working in a health profession.
- Develop your Handshake profile and look for alumni in Badger Bridge.
- When contacting alumni, ask them if they would be willing to have a 20-minute video chat. If they are unable, see if they would be willing to answer some questions by email.
- Other ways to connect with alumni:
- Develop a LinkedIn profile and join groups. Join groups around various UW alumni, interests groups, and specific fields. Then contact them!
- Sign up for newsletters in your field of choice and follow them on Instagram and Facebook. This way, you can find out about virtual fairs and school panels and information sessions. These can be great ways to learn more about a school and meet alumni and other practitioners.
- Diversify your Instagram feed, watch alumni IGTV videos, like them, follow them, and then see if you can set up video chats.
Research Health Professions Programs
It takes time to learn about health professions schools. Think of it as a really important research project that you are creating for yourself. If you find yourself with extra time during the pandemic, it’s never too early to begin this project. The NAAHP (National Association of Advisors for Health Professions) offers a great page of resources for information on all types of programs. Check it out!
NAAHP also provides a clearinghouse of COVID-19 updates from health professions.
Engage in Free Online Learning
This list is by no means exhaustive. Start here, but also see what else is out there!
- Class about pandemics from Harvard
- Class about community change in public health from Johns Hopkins
- Essentials of global health from Yale
- Free courses at Ivy League colleges
- Georgetown offers free Massive Open Online Courses including Bioethics, Biomedical Big Data, Globalization, or Genomic Medicine.
- Linkedin Learning
Reflect and Journal
It’s never too early to start reflecting on and writing about your experiences and interest in health professions. The more you do this in the years leading up to your application to programs, the stronger and deeper your insight will be into why you want to pursue the profession you choose, how you have tested your interest in this profession, what you have learned as you tested this interest, and how you’ve grown in the sensitivities, awarenesses, skills, and other competencies that will make you an excellent provider in the healthcare field of your choice.
It will help to look at the health professional competencies that professional organizations specify. You may also want to add to these lists!
- Accreditation Counsel for Genetic Counseling
- American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine
- American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy
- American Association of Medical Colleges
- American Association of Physician Assistants
- Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges
- American Dental Education Association
- American Physical Therapy Association
- Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry
- Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health
Read, Listen, and Watch
- Books to read, speakers to listen to, and films to watch
- Regularly updated scholarly but accessible JSTOR articles on current and past history, public health, and more.
- See the Learn More: Read & View section of the CPHA Newsletter (sent once a month in summer and winter breaks and twice a month during fall and spring semesters)
- Learn more about racism and structural inequality in healthcare:
- Prioritizing Equity video series from the American Medical Association
- Epidemics and the African American Community video series from the Hutchins Center Project on Race and Gender in Science and Medicine
- What the Racial Data Show: The pandemic seems to be hitting people of color the hardest (The Atlantic, April 2020)
- Duke University School of Medicine Antiracism Resources
- Harvard University Antiracism and Health Reading List
- How to recognize your white privilege — and use it to fight inequality (TED Talk)
- A starting place to become a better ally
- The US Medical System Is Still Haunted by Slavery (Vox)
- News Stories highlighting pre-health student and health professional student efforts to help during the pandemic:
- Rutgers Medical School Students Mobilize to Support Health Care Workers
- Local Medical Students Team up to Provide Child Care for Health Workers
- Doctors in Training: In Limbo, [Princeton] Alumni Med Students Find Ways to Serve
- Clinical training on pause, UC med students find ways to be of service
- MN “Covidsitters” organization developed by UMN medical students
- Chicago Medical Students Form Volunteer Teams
- Medical Students, Sidelined for Now, Find New Ways to Fight Coronavirus
- Students form Harvard-wide Task Force
- Premed student develops grocery service for seniors
Attend Online Fairs and Info Sessions
Develop Life Skills
- Do you know how to cook? Offer to cook and deliver a meal to neighbors trying to manage childcare and work obligations at home.
- Develop an at-home exercise routine.
- Take up or revisit a craft or hobby — origami, bike repair, gardening, the instrument or art supplies you put down at the end of high school …
- Learn how to budget — analyze your spending from the last year and develop a budget moving forward (see Nerdwallet tips).