What is Patient Support Corps?
When I was a senior in high school, I knew that I was passionate about and interested in the field of medicine. Therefore, when it came time for me to choose what college to attend, access to volunteer opportunities at nearby hospitals was a major factor in my decision. When I finally came to campus last term and my email was suddenly bombarded with messages from all the student groups on campus, one stuck out to me. It mentioned a program at the hospital, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, called Patient Support Corps. I replied, expressing my interest, and attended an information session the following week. Now, in my seventeenth week at Dartmouth, I have volunteered for 62 hours and accompanied patients to four appointments.
But what exactly is Patient Support Corps? It was originally started by a group at University of California, San Francisco in 2015 and exists only in a few hospitals around the country. Essentially, there are two components of the service. First, volunteers can talk to patients on the phone and come up with a comprehensive question list, which will then be sent to the doctor before the appointment. Second, volunteers can accompany patients to their appointment and transcribe the conversation, so patients do not have to worry about remembering every detail. These services are provided free of charge. At first, the program at DHMC was only open to Geisel School of Medicine students as volunteers. But currently, any undergraduate can participate as long as he or she completes the necessary training. Although I was definitely a bit intimidated at first, Patient Support Corps has become one of my most fulfilling and meaningful activities at Dartmouth. At appointments, I get to watch how doctors interact with patients, how they respond to tough questions, and how they translate medical jargon into language that is easily understandable. I also get to learn more about the specific disease or condition that a patient has and the treatment options available. Finally, I have met some amazing people from Vermont and New Hampshire, many of whom drive hours just to be seen by a doctor at DHMC. They usually tell me all about their careers and their families, and ask about my life, too. They often express gratitude for Patient Support Corps, a gratitude that I share, for the opportunity I have as a Dartmouth student to participate in a program that reminds me of why I want to be a doctor.