UBC Clinical Skills Volunteer Patient Program

Lynn Mockler, BSN MA, UBC Faculty of Medicine

Volunteer Patients are members of the general public who donate their time to assist first and second-year medical students in learning and practicing history-taking and hands-on physical exam skills. Over 350 volunteers take part in the Clinical Skills program at the VFMP site, ranging in age from 6 to 84. Some have been volunteering for many years, but new volunteers are welcomed every academic year.

Unlike standardized patients who are trained to “act” a role, Volunteer Patients present as themselves. Most are healthy people who participate in the students’ first interviews, first abdominal, cardiac and respiratory exams, first paediatric exams. Others have ongoing medical conditions and help the students further develop their skills as they learn to identify physical findings that deviate from the normal.  The Clinical Skills sessions last between 1 and 3 hours and the majority are held at the Diamond Health Care Centre.  Some volunteers kindly travel to teaching sessions held at other sites, like St. Paul’s, Royal Columbian and Lion’s Gate hospitals.

The reasons for volunteering are as varied as the volunteers themselves. Many have received excellent medical care and find the program to be a good way to give back. Some are young people who hope to be medical students themselves one day. Volunteers like Janet, a nurse, appreciate the opportunity to help educate students about their medical condition. Like most volunteers, Eric, a retired engineer, finds the experience mutually beneficial, “Being with these intelligent young people is very good for me too. I learn a lot, know a lot more about my own medical condition.”
What all of the volunteers have in common is a rewarding experience that is greatly appreciated by the UBC medical students, faculty and staff.  A Volunteer Appreciation event is held at the close of every academic year to recognize and thank these members of the general public for the donation of their time and energy.

Volunteer Patients make a unique and valuable contribution to the education of our future doctors. For further information about the Volunteer Patient Programme, please contact Lynn Mockler at hxpe.patients@ubc.ca  (604-875-4111 ext. 63301) or Rosy Pacheva at volunteer.patients@ubc.ca (604-875-5377).