About USC Norris Cancer Center: The USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center is a leader in cancer research, with more than 200 members investigating the complex origins and progression of cancer, developing prevention strategies and searching for cures. USC Norris is part of the Keck School of Medicine and is designated by the National Cancer Institute as one of the nation’s 41 comprehensive cancer centers.
Length of Commitment: 6 months (only for THV students)
Shifts Available: M-F; 9am – 5pm
TB Testing: Yes – more information given upon acceptance
Norris Cancer Hospital is a very nice place to volunteer if you do not have a car and if you want to volunteer for a year (only start from fall). Because clearance process is not too lengthy, you can volunteer earlier than other sites—you need to get a TB test (which is provided here at student health center) and attend a general orientation for one day. First when you apply, you will contact Alicia, the volunteer director. She is extremely kind and warm, and you can contact her pretty easily (email and phone). When you meet up with her after you fill out some paper works, she will ask you which unit you want to be in, such as GI, admission, image and enhancement center, etc. You will tell her what you would like to get out of the volunteering experience, and she does her best to meet your need.
After orientation, you will be placed in a specific department, and you will be communicating with your department, not Alicia, from then on. For example, when you are sick and cannot go, you will call in the department, and so forth. I am not sure about other department, but GI lab (pre-op room and recovery room), where I volunteered at, does not have anyone to directly contact about your work or schedule. So you would talk to the nurses you see around about when you come, when you cannot come, and so forth.
The best thing about Norris Cancer Hospital is that you actually have a chance to talk to a lot of patients. I volunteer at GI from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm, and you get to talk to a lot of patients when you wheel them down to the valet parking area. Also, most of the nurses are really nice—they are friendly and kind when you ask questions. However, they are very busy so you might not have a lot of time to talk with them.
It is a really pleasurable volunteering experience with kind patients and friendly nurses. I learned a lot from Norris Cancer Hospital.
1st Semester Student
When I first set sights on volunteering at the USC Norris Cancer Center, I thought the process of transitioning to this medical facility would be simple. To an extent it was, but without some obstacles. The clearance process was the biggest obstacle for me. In particular, scheduling a date for the orientation was difficult for me. The date suggested to me interfered with a class where attendance was part of the grade. After I addressed this issue to my director,
Alicia, she suggested that I attend the orientation after that. That would have been fine, expect the next orientation date was 2 months later. I would have missed out a lot of potential weeks of volunteering since attending the orientation is a prerequisite to volunteering at the medical facility. Also, it is imperative to schedule an interview early, preferably before the orientation. Alicia has a very busy schedule and if you schedule an interview late it might occur much later. In the end, I got lucky and managed to sort things out. After attending the orientation, it was clear to me what needed to be done and how to do it in order to begin volunteering. For example, in the folder that was given to me during the orientation, it stated where to get a TB shot and what steps you needed to take in order to get medically cleared. However, scheduling an appointment to get medically cleared was met with frustration. After calling everyday within business hours for about 3 days, no one picked up the phone. It was not until after I left a message that they later called that day. Our expectations on how to behave and what to do were clearly discussed during the orientation. For example, we should not pry into the personal lives of patients by bombarding them with questions. or take pictures of patient’s personal health information. Acting an active role by asking questions to nurse was conducive to valuable learning opportunities. Also, observing the environment and noting what occurs and when it occurs instead of sitting around and playing with your phone was also conducive to valuable learning opportunities. For example, observed that when a patient leaves for surgery, their bed leaves and is immediately replaced with a new bed which is coupled with sanitizing of the patient’s area. Observing this allowed me to help the nurses to facilitate this procedure.
1st Semester Student
Norris is a pleasant experience, and though it’s relatively far (near Union Station), it’s located on the USC Health Sciences campus so the USC shuttle can be taken to the hospital.
The volunteer coordinator of Norris, Alicia, is very friendly and is pretty available and/or reachable through email and phone. However, she is really the only point of contact and I have had difficulty determining who to talk to at the specific locations I have volunteered at in Norris (she will refer you to hospital staff for specific concerns/questions, staff will refer you back to Alicia, etc.), and it is slightly frustrating. Expectation and responsibility clarity vary depending on where you get placed at the hospital, but generally the staff appreciate any extra help and are volunteering here is accommodating to your schedule.
The requirements for the site are: an application, an orientation, a health assessment, and getting their volunteer jacket. If you go through THV, you still have to fill out the application, but it’s more a formality to record your information than anything else. The site volunteer minimum length is one year! The clearances were relatively easy to get through, although it took me a long time just to get my schedule lined up to get the health clearance done and actually start at site. Orientations are not offered very often, so if possible do it as early as possible.
My impression of the volunteer experience was that the main purpose of the volunteers was to help the image of the hospital, like customer service. I am not sure of what other locations and jobs the other volunteers had, but these include places like: the day hospital, inpatient floors (nurses’ station), the gift shop, and helping out in other patient interaction areas of the hospital.
All my major quibbles with Norris are mentioned above, but overall I have had a positive experience and enjoyed my time here.
I volunteered at Norris this semester and it was one of the most amazing experiences in my life.I have met people from so many walks of life and each and everyone exposed me to a different outlook of life. Since it was a cancer center, the patients are not just people who will come in and leave within a couple of hours and never come back. These are patients who come in regularly and each visit usually takes the whole day. It is heart-wrenching to realize that these patients can’t live the normal day to day bases because coming to the cancer center eats so much of their time. But once you get to interact with the patients, their optimism and amazing spirit completely warms your heart. And the staff is so caring that one feels like they are in the center of a cozy family rather than a hospital.
I have been working at the Norris Hospital for cancer patients for one year now and I must say I enjoyed my time there. Not only were the employees there very friendly towards us volunteers, the experience I gained was very beneficial as well. I worked in the Norris Endoscopy Pre-Surgery Unit/GI Lab. Our purpose as volunteers at the GI Lab is to provide cancer patients and their family members with friendly, courteous service. Daily tasks I do include preparing chairs, gowns, and medical records for the patients, assist recovery room nurses, taking out patients in wheelchairs to valet parking lot, assist OR medical assistances, make up beds for later surgeries, making medical packets, copies, obtaining ID cards, printing up patient records, contacting medical records office, admitting office, and the labs as directed by the charge nurse, Inez. Sounds like a lot of busy work, which does seems like it at first, but with the help of the nurses and seasoned volunteers things became much more natural for me. As the people there began to know me and trust me more, I was given more opportunities to observe what the nurses did on a daily basis, how they talked to the patients, what kinds of questions they would be asking that the doctor wanted to know about. Medical terms are becoming more and more familiar words now instead of just big long alien languages. One of the main reasons I wanted to do volunteering at a hospital at first was for med school. But as I work there more I find myself becoming more and more student of the system, and beginning to understand and like the hospital system. I believe that in itself is a great reason to volunteer at Norris, or any other hospital.