Lehigh University partners with St. Luke’s University Hospital Network to help students gain hands-on volunteer experience. Students of any major may participate, however, most students are in the pre-health field of study. (Courtesy of Google Maps)

Lehigh students volunteer at St. Luke’s Hospital despite COVID-19

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The partnership between St. Luke’s University Hospital Network and Lehigh University allows for students in the pre-health field to gain hands-on volunteer experience in the medical field. Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, the partnership opportunities have persisted throughout the last year.

Any student is able to volunteer regardless of their major, but many chose to volunteer because they are on a pre-med track. 

Sophia Noble, ‘22, volunteers in the emergency room. She said as a volunteer without medical training, she primarily assists with small tasks. 

“I stock linen carts and crash carts, and I will help nurses with small tasks,” she said. “I get to interact with patients pretty minimally. I can get them food, I can have conversations, ask them if they need any help getting anywhere.”

Zoe Wolfenson, ’22, also volunteers in the emergency room and one of her biggest tasks is to help stock medical carts. 

She said she has seen a wide range of emergency scenarios and has learned how to use all of the different types of devices used to treat patients ranging from minor injuries to strokes. 

Peter Jensen, ‘22, has volunteered in the cancer center for the past year. 

He said since he can’t interact with patients frequently because of COVID-19, he strives to assist them however possible via telephone. 

Student volunteers noted the pandemic as the greatest challenge of their internship experiences. 

Wolfenson said her role primarily consists of facilitating patient visitation. 

“I basically help take patients back and take visitors back, which has definitely had some challenges because with COVID, they are only allowing one visitor back at a time,” she said. “It has been interesting talking to families and incorporating that change in their lives because they aren’t used to that and want to see their families.”

Ali Quadrozzi, ’21, first began volunteering during the pandemic and said she thinks there would be more volunteers and more work for her to do without COVID-19. However, things are starting to become more routine, she said. 

Before volunteering, Jensen said he wasn’t sure he wanted to go to medical school after graduating from Lehigh, but volunteering at St. Luke’s gave him the experience to realize what he wanted to pursue upon graduation. 

I was on the fence before, but now I definitely know I want to do it,” he said. “Understanding the hospital system (and) getting the experience and knowledge that I want to help people.”

While Noble had a slow start at St. Lukes due to nerves and shyness, she has overcome that and has found the internship experience rewarding. The biggest advice Noble would give to students looking to volunteer at St. Luke’s is to be confident in themselves. 

“Just be confident,” Noble said. “You are making a difference and they really appreciate that. Act like you know what you are doing so the patients have trust in your abilities and in the hospital.”

Wolfenson said anyone can get involved and would recommend the internship program to people who are looking to give back to the community. 

“You can do things that aren’t even medical related,” she said. “One of my friends works in the vaccine clinic. She just registers people and she is a marketing major. You can really get involved in any way no matter your major.”

Wolfenson said she has enjoyed the experience because it has helped her put things into perspective. 

“The world is much bigger than we perceive,” she said. “Lehigh can feel like a bubble sometimes. Going out and getting experience, even at St. Luke’s which is just 10 minutes away, just opens your eyes to the real world and the things that people really deal with … It just helps me to be more grateful for what I have and my education and the people around me.”

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