“My favourite thing is coming here and helping the kids, that’s what it’s all about for me. It’s great when you get to see former students you met through the program working at the hospital as interns. You see the benefit of the fruits you're helping to grow,” Lance says.
Fellow volunteer, Ivor, adds what he loves most about being a VSP since 2019 and why other members of the community should consider getting involved:
“It’s such a tremendous privilege to be part of a medical student’s journey. One of the beautiful things about volunteering with JCU is that you really get the sense you are very highly respected. You’re treated like a VIP and you can feel that you’re contributing to something important. And I would add, it’s such a therapy for retirees!” Ivor says.
Third-year medical student Finley Prentis interacts with the VSPs through sessions like Motivational Interviews and history taking. He explained what he gets out of the volunteers’ involvement in his education:
“It's just a really good opportunity to refine our clinical skills, but also it's just a good opportunity to practise a skill that's new to us with faces we haven't seen before, who are still super friendly. They're very encouraging. They're very relaxed. They always make us feel welcome. Sometimes they'll crack a joke just so you’re a bit more comfortable and it just helps you practise real-world clinical skills,” Finley says.
It’s a sentiment you’ll find echoed by current and former students alike. Feedback from students on the VSP program highlights both the clinical skills gained and the fun and memorable interactions. Neha Ramesh says the friendliness of the VSPs is a standout. She shared one of her favourite memories of a volunteer who helped her through the daunting process of an MSAT practical exam:
“My friend and I were debating on a particular practice to do. It was actually the patient who walked us through the entire procedure, which is kind of funny because they've got so much experience working with students over so many years that they now pretty much know everything we need to know!” Neha says.
JCU College of Medicine and Dentistry Dean Prof Sarah Larkins says the VSPs provide an extremely valuable learning experience for students, both through their roleplaying and the feedback they provide in the post-teaching sessions.
“Our volunteers are a bunch of extremely altruistic people. They are community-minded and they feel passionate about being part of training the next generation of health professionals.
“From the JCU College of Medicine and Dentistry, I would like to express our sincerest thanks to all the volunteers who give of their time selflessly to help educate the next generation of health professionals for North Queensland. I have no doubt that the clinical and communication skills of our graduates are highly regarded not least because of the efforts of our volunteers,” Prof Larkins says.