Healthcare volunteers needed to support the community

Imagine having to decide between buying food and paying bills or having that nagging health care problem explored. In many situations, the basic necessities win this battle and what may start out as an easily-treated, minor health care problem turns into something more.

This is often the reality for many people who are uninsured or underinsured. A $100 doctor visit doesn’t fit in the budget so, instead of getting the care they need, they go without.

Catherine’s Health Center, a nonprofit medical clinic that began in 1996, offers free or low-cost health care to uninsured or underserved individuals in northeast Grand Rapids. Nearly 85 percent of their patients are employed, but still cannot afford insurance or adequate health care.

“We feel everyone has a right to health care,” says Volunteer Coordinator Kelsey Carriere.

To be able to provide this valuable community service, they rely on medical professionals to donate their time and skills. Carriere says her organization is currently operating at only two-thirds of its capacity and needs more skilled volunteers. The center is designed to serve a maximum of 15,000 patients per year and with the economy in the state it’s in, more and more people are turning to Catherine’s Health Care for their medical needs.

Anyone with professional medical training is encouraged to apply to become a volunteer. The clinic works with college students, retired professionals and everyone in between. Primary care professionals (MD, DO, PA, NP), physical therapists, occupational therapists, dietitians, clinical social workers, optometrists, massage therapists, pharmacists, health educators and others are needed now more than ever.

Catherine’s accommodates flexible time commitments and offers malpractice insurance coverage to its volunteers. They want to make it as easy and rewarding as possible for people to donate their time. The clinic could not operate without the generous help of the healthcare community, and even as little as 4-6 volunteer hours a month are appreciated.  

An application can be found online and once Carriere receives it, she’ll contact the applicant for an interview. If the match seems like a good fit, she’ll verify credentials and run a background check. Once accepted, the volunteer attends an orientation process and then is assigned to work with a member of the team.

Oftentimes, volunteers have the opportunity to help in an area they don’t normally work in during their regular job, allowing them to gain new skills. Carriere says it’s typically a mutually beneficial experience for both the volunteer and the clinic.

“The relationship needs to be a partnership between both parties to be effective,” she says.
In January 2011, Catherine’s Health Center opened a new facility at Leonard and Lafayette. The space is modern and welcoming, and it reflects their commitment to providing quality care in a dignified manner.

Catherine’s Health Center’s dedicated volunteers make a difference in the lives of so many. If you’re a healthcare professional, please consider getting involved. And even if you’re not, there are other ways you can show your support for this organization so everyone can have access to quality healthcare. Here are some ideas:

-    Visit Catherine’s Health Center online to find out more about them.
-    Volunteer. If you are a medical professional, your skills are greatly needed. If not, there are still a number of other ways to get involved.
-    Donate financially. Catherine’s Health Center is privately funded and any amount donated is appreciated.
-    Sign up for their newsletter.
-    Like them on Facebook.

Source: Kelsey Carriere, Volunteer Coordinator at Catherine’s Health Center

Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Photos provided by Catherine’s Health Center.  
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