Staying in a hospital is not an easy experience for anyone. It doesn’t matter whether you lie in a bed, or sit on a chair next to someone you love. When a person is terribly sick, possibly fighting for their life, it’s tough to bear.

Volunteers can help make this experience at least a little bit better. They can offer an encouraging word, or sometimes a shoulder to cry on. They may make it easier for the staff as well, helping with transporting patients and with clerical duties, or with escorting visitors to rooms and sometimes they can answer phone calls, or help in a cafeteria.

Hats down that you decided to apply for a position of a volunteer in a hospital. All I can do to thank you for your generosity and sacrifice is helping you prepare for your interview. It won’t be a difficult one, but it’s still better to know what questions they may ask you. Let’s have a look at them.


Why do you want to be a volunteer in a hospital?

You should try to address two things in your answer. First one is what you want to give. Perhaps you have empathy with people who suffer, and can find the right words when a patient needs them most. Or you have decent skills with administrative and clerical work, and no real job at the moment, and instead of wasting your time home you want to be useful for someone, for an important institution such as a hospital.

Second thing is what you want to gain from this experience. You can always say that you want to give your ordinary days (or weekends, if you want to volunteer on weekends) some meaning, or that at this stage of your life you feel an urge to help people, and found this opportunity fitting to follow your calling. And if you have any other specific reason, share it with them. Try to be honest right from the start.

* For some inspiration, you can check 7 sample answers to “Why do you want to volunteer?


How do you imagine your volunteering day in this hospital?

You have a few options for a good answer. One is saying that you simply want to help, with anything that is needed on the day, be it work with patients or papers, be it cleaning or socializing. You know that staff and patients may need you for a variety of things, and will simply follow the lead of the coordinator of volunteers, or anyone else responsible for assigning tasks to volunteers.

Another option is pointing out specific duties, such as socializing with patients, escorting visitors to rooms, etc. You can try to connect these activities with your strengths, saying that you’d prefer to do this or that because that’s what you excel in (or at least hope to). In this case you should always add that while you have some preferences, you are ready to help with whatever they may need in their hospital.

young patient in a hospital bed

What is your availability?

Volunteering is a part time opportunity. Try to prepare a clear schedule before the start of your interview, indicating which hours you can work on which days, including weekends. Most hospitals require their volunteers to work at least 4 hours a week, though some may accept one time volunteers for fundraising and similar events.

You should also indicate how long you’d like to volunteer–if you have an end point on your mind, for example when your summer vacation ends, or something similar. And remember that volunteering is not a job. You should not demand to work 20 hours a week. It’s not how it works…


When it’s the last time you tested for tuberculosis, measles, or illegal substances use?

If you underwent some tests lately (during the last six months), it will speed up your application process. And if you did not undergo any health screening, you should ensure the volunteer coordinator that you understand the importance of these tests, and are ready to undergo them at any time.

* Please note that some hospitals may not require health screening of volunteers. This depends on the tasks the volunteers take care of, and on other things.


What would you like to do the most while volunteering in our hospital?

Feel free to share your ideas and wishes with the interviewers. They will never turn you down completely, even if you say you’d like to work in a hospital cafeteria. Maybe volunteers can’t do the tasks of your choice, or they are taken by someone else already. But at least you told them something and you can start looking for an ideal position for you from that point together.

In fact they ask this question mostly to identify your training needs, and to decide whether to send you to general orientation for volunteers only, or arrange some special training session for you. You can also say that you’d like to try different duties and positions for volunteers within the hospital.


You may see a lot of suffering while volunteering in this hospital. How do you plan to deal with it emotionally?

You can say that you have a balanced life, and that you actually hope to bring some peace and happiness to the “rooms of suffering”.

Four or eight hours each week is not a long time. Your positive energy will brighten the life of patients, and even if someone’s suffering touches you emotionally, there are good things waiting for you outside of the hospital. You will manage to forget, you will get over it quickly.

They may actually prepare you for this during the training session, explaining how you can maintain at least some emotional distance.


Are you a team player?

Say that you are, and look forward to your cooperation with other volunteers. At the same time, however, you can work independently (after getting instructions from your coordinator), and do not mind being alone in a room with a patient, or doing anything else in the building on your own, without supervision.

During the entire interview you should speak with enthusiasm and humility. They should get an impression that you are eager to start–learning first, and then finally helping patients, their families, and the regular employees of the hospital… We have also 7 sample answers online to “Are you a team player?“, make sure to check them out if you’re not sure how to express your preference for teamwork.


Summary, next steps

The only thing that really matters for your interviewers in this case are your honest intentions. If they feel that you really want to help, and are ready to sacrifice a bit of your time each week, and are willing to undergo their training for volunteers, they will give you a chance.

This is an easy interview, and I am sure you will pass it. I wish you good luck, and enjoy your volunteering work in a hospital!


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Matthew Chulaw
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