How to Work in a Hospital ICU As a Volunteer


Working in an intensive care unit can be a stressful yet rewarding experience. You will be working with patients who are in critical condition and families who are worried and upset. You will need lots of compassion to handle these situations as delicately as possible. But if working in an ICU has been a lifelong dream for you, there is nothing but a bit of paperwork and training standing in the way.

Things You'll Need

  • Resume
  • Cover letter
  • Letters of recommendations
  • Decide if you can handle working in an intensive care unit. Patients are admitted to the ICU because they are in a critical state and require highly specialized care. They require constant supervision because their condition could worsen in a matter of minutes. Because of the severity of their conditions, some ICU patients don't make it out alive. If you can't handle working in a high-stress area where death isn't uncommon, the ICU probably wouldn't be the best area for you. Some of your general duties would include supervising families' visits with the patients and accompanying them to meet with the doctor after medical procedures, and you will also be responsible for handling, admitting and discharge records and other sensitive information.

  • Build your resume and get letters of reference. If you are seeking a volunteer position in an intensive care unit because you plan on working in that area after finishing college, highlight your studies in your resume. If you don't already have a resume prepared, you can get free templates and advice on building one at (see Resources for link). It is also a good idea to get letters of recommendation from respected individuals, such as your college professors or previous employers. For sample letters of recommendation, visit (see Resources for link). A great resume and letter of recommendation can really help boost your chances if the hospital of your choice has a volunteer waiting list.

  • Determine how many hours you can volunteer. If you can only volunteer a few hours a week, a hospital ICU can still benefit from your selfless offering. Determine how many hours you can work without it affecting your schoolwork or job. Also consider what shifts you would be able to work. If you have a job during the day, you could still put in a few hours on the swing shift. If you are only going to school, you could fit in some volunteer work in between classes.

  • Contact local hospitals. Call around to hospitals in your area, and speak with the volunteer coordinator to find out of they have openings for volunteers in the ICU. You can also search online at HealthCare Volunteer (see Resources for link). It is a non-profit organization with the world's largest listing of health-care volunteering opportunities. This search engine also allows you to search medical schools that have hospitals attached to them.

  • Discuss the requirements. You usually have to be at least 16 to volunteer at a hospital, but some states might require you to be 18. Don't expect to apply for volunteer work and start the next week. There is a lot of testing, paperwork, and background checking to be done. You will undergo tuberculosis screening and also screening for susceptibility to other contagious diseases. You will also have to take a drug test. After your paperwork is complete, you will have to attend orientation and possibly additional training to be eligible to work in the intensive care unit. You should discuss this with the volunteer coordinator at the hospital for which you want to volunteer to find out the exact requirements.

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