Volunteering with Madison House Medical Services

Written by Sarah Downes '26, Pre-Med

For all pre-health professions, volunteering is a great way to get involved in the community, whether that be in a hospital setting or somewhere else. One of my favorite programs at UVA has been Madison House, as part of their medical services volunteer program. This program provides students with the opportunity to volunteer in a clinical setting, and is a good way to gain better understanding if you like working in a hospital. My experience has provided me with a great opportunity for patient interaction, and I can truly see the impact Madison House Medical Services has on patients and their families.

During my first year at UVA, I volunteered in the Emily Couric Cancer Center in hospitality. This involved welcoming patients and making them feel comfortable while they waited for their appointments. As UVA is one of few Comprehensive Cancer Centers in Virginia, patients who are often undergoing uncomfortable treatment, sometimes travel hours to make it to their appointments. As a volunteer, I often engaged in conversations with patients, learning about their lives, and noticing the impact that volunteers could have on patients at UVA Health.


This year, I volunteer in acute pediatrics at UVA Health. My role consists of comforting patients, giving caregivers a break, and cuddling babies. As many families travel long distances to receive treatment, it is not always feasible for caregivers to stay with the patient while at the hospital. As a volunteer, I am able to support patients, especially those who may not have any family or loved ones able to stay with them.


When speaking to Tara Frost, another volunteer in Acute Pediatrics, she spoke of the impact she feels she is making in this role: “My position as an acute pediatric bedside volunteer has completely changed the way I think about patient care in health care settings. Especially for children, the support given, connections made, and patience shown is essential for their care. Whether comforting a baby in pain, distracting a kid in fear, or being a listening ear to teens in difficult positions, I’ve been able to see the direct impact I can have on patients. I was able to really see the difference I make when a patient who had been resisting all resources from child life and had been in bed for days finally opened up to me. We built a relationship and she allowed me to take her to the play room for a change of pace and a space to just be a kid. She opened up about her fears while we colored and by the end she even managed a smile. I’m very grateful for the lessons I’ve learned from both the hospital staff and patients during my time as a Madison House volunteer. “


My experience over the past two years has been incredible, and I definitely recommend it to any pre-health students looking to volunteer in the UVA community. The Madison House Medical Services program is a year long placement, beginning every fall. There are mandatory information sessions that typically occur during the first few weeks of school and placement typically occurs in September. If you are interested in volunteering, make sure to look into the start dates at the beginning of the fall semester, and if you continue volunteering past your first year, you have priority pick on the service you are on! To learn more, you can go to their website below: