This is an op/ed piece I just finished writing for our local independent paper. Enjoy. 87 Pages: My Daunting Quest to Become a Hospital Volunteer Having recently graduated from college and with med-school as a possibility, health care volunteering seemed like a great idea. I could wait tables to earn a living and volunteer at a hospital in the down-time. With three hospitals in the area, WakeMed, Rex, and Duke Raleigh (formerly Raleigh Community), I figured Id have my pick of settings. So I applied to all three. Then the trouble started. I downloaded a copy of WakeMeds volunteer application from their website, which instructed me to complete it and return it to them. The staff at the information desk gave me directions to the volunteer office. I walked down a long hallway into the center of the hospital, a little giddy with excitement every time someone in a white coat passed. I took the elevator to the ground floor and emerged in a dim and dusty un-renovated section of the building that resembled a set from Resident Evil. I made my way to the volunteer office, a thoroughly depressing alcove with no windows and dingy fluorescent lights. There was one person in the office, who emerged when I knocked on her door. I told her I was there to drop off my application and speak to someone about the possibility of volunteering. Instead of enthusiasm, I was met with nasty rapid-fire grilling about how old I was and an annoyed spiel about how my commitment had better be longer than just a summer (which it was). She wouldnt even accept my application! Instead, she handed me a large manila folder weighing about 10 pounds and told me after Id read through and filled it all out I could call her secretary to schedule an interview. As I stood there, baffled, I couldnt help thinking, Screw you! If you want to treat me like **** you have to pay me! I tossed the folder into the back of my car and decided to take my time elsewhere. Next stop: Duke Raleigh, a quaint place with a family feel. It was positively adorable. I dropped off my application with a group of sweet old ladies at the information desk, who assured me theyd bring it right up to the volunteer office. Two hours later I received a call from a volunteer coordinator who wanted me to come in for an interview. I dropped by the next morning for a very pleasant discussion, where I received a modest packet of information and forms. I was told I needed to schedule an appointment with the employee health nurse for a tuberculosis test and routine check-up. I called and scheduled an appointment for the following Wednesday, first thing in the morning. Things seemed to be going more smoothly than at WakeMed. But come Wednesday, I showed up to a locked door. After pacing the hall for a few minutes, an assistant finally emerged from a staff lounge and asked if I needed help. I told her Id come in for my appointment. She took my paperwork and let me into the office, where she kindly told me that not only did they have no record of my appointment, but that the employee health nurse had a meeting that morning and Id have to reschedule. More to the point, I couldnt schedule an exact time. Id have to call the morning-of to make sure that the nurse would actually be there, as if I were setting up an appointment with the cable repair man. I was beginning to sense a trend. Perhaps Id have better luck at Rex. I dropped off an application and was told someone would contact me within 24-48hrs. A few days went by with no call. I did, however, receive a letter in the mail from Rex. It had my address but one of my references names on it. Confused, I opened the letter to discover that it was a form they send out to references. Why it showed up at my house I have no idea. I got a call from Rex the next day asking me to come in for an interview. I agreed, and informed them that they might want to double-check the addresses on any recommendation letters theyd sent out for me. Come interview day, I showed up to the volunteer office clean-shaven, wearing a collared shirt and a pair of summer slacks. I chatted with the volunteer coordinator for a while about my experience, hobbies, and aspirations. Things were looking up. But half-way into the interview, she informed me that they had no volunteer positions available for me because they were all taken up by high-school students in the VolunTeen program. Had I really gotten dressed up and driven to the hospital only to be told half-way through the interview that I couldnt volunteer? I was astonished. Maybe Id give WakeMed another chance. I dug the bulky folder out of my car and sat down at a coffee shop to look it over. It contained 87 pages of material to read and forms to fill out, plus several tri-fold pamphlets. Some of the forms covered the usual background check and confidentiality agreement, but others were quite perplexing, such as a credit check. A credit check? Others proved to be both hilariously entertaining and insulting, such as the Age Appropriate Care section, a 15 page self-test which reports to help you interact with family members who may fall into one of these special age groups. Special? The age groups range from infant to 70 and beyond. The packet includes paragraphs of information, followed by fill in the blank questions, and an answer key to the immediate right in another column. I understand this is a learning tool and not the verbal reasoning section of the MCAT, but it was so stupendously idiotic, rife with grammatical errors, and insulting to ones intelligence that I couldnt help erupting into laughter. In the section on Adolescents, one paragraph reads, Privacy is of the utmost importance and all should be done to protect [sic]. The following question asks, _______ is of the utmost importance. The last sentence of a paragraph about what its like to be Late Adolescent reads, It is important not to treat them as a child. The very next sentence, a fill in the blank questions, reads, It is important not to ___________. Can you guess what the answer is? Another section I found particularly engrossing was a 7 page packet on Body Mechanics, which states that volunteers are expected to be knowledgeable of the policy and to employ all guidelines and techniques covered therein. It includes such movement strategies as Stand with a wide base of support (feet spread). You may need to stagger one foot in front of the other. Section D, which includes guidelines for stationary workers, has some fabulous instructions on how to sit. As you read this, try to follow along: Sitting: Upper extremity position: Arms held at the side of the body, elbows at 90 and wrists at a 0 degree angle (neutral). Chances are you look like a Velociraptor. Other guidelines include, Perform a position reversal every 15-30 minutes, or sooner as needed. Even with a college degree, Im unsure what a position reversal is, but it rings of a copywriter with a very uneventful love life. Better yet, the packet mandates that any deviation from this policy requires the approval of the Vice President for Human Resources. In fact, I would defy anyone to sit, stand, walk, or perform any other bodily function for more than a few minutes without breaking the code. This led me to all sorts of fantasies. I could sit awkwardly during the interview with my extremities at exact 90 degree angles, and then suddenly require that the interviewer switch places with me and act as the applicant, insisting that I was performing a position reversal and then demanding that she call the vice president if she had a problem with that. But the entire process is such a hassle that I have a difficult time believing that even those with nothing better to do would stand for being trampled on. Ive been snapped at, stood up, turned away, and required to read and complete 87 pages of pure nonsense, all in the pursuit of volunteering my time to help those in need. These are not purposeful tests of commitment but reckless disregard for people who only want to help.