Although primarily staffed by local healthcare volunteers or Bowdoin staff members, the Covid-19 testing center in Farley Field House has recently welcomed student volunteers for both PCR and antigen testing. The volunteering program provides students with the opportunity to obtain hands-on training in the medical field while meeting members of the Bowdoin community that they normally wouldn’t have.
“I wanted to [get involved with the testing center] because I have been off campus for so long because of Covid,” student volunteer Clementine Blaschke ’23 said. “Everyone has been off campus, so it was a nice way to meet a bunch of new people that I’ve never seen before.”
The student volunteer program is run by testing center staff and facilitated by the Bowdoin Pre-Health Society, an pre-professional group for students who plan on pursuing a career in health-related fields. Because of Covid, many traditional opportunities open to students interested in pre-health and pre-medicine are no longer available such as volunteering in clinics and hospitals.
“Covid-19 is, after all, the largest public health emergency of our time,” Director of Health Professions Advising Seth Ramus said. “There ought to be new opportunities for pre-health students to explore.”
For Ramus, volunteering at the testing center fills the hole in hands-on clinical experience left by the pandemic. Working at the testing center is not only a medical experience but an opportunity to get out in the field, interact with people, learn about the behind-the-scenes of the testing operation and provide medical service for the College.
“Being in healthcare is a service job,” Ramus said. “Every service opportunity is an opportunity to learn. If you are thoughtful about it, if you are reflective about it, if you’re intentional about it, it becomes an opportunity to learn.”
Student shifts at the testing center typically last two to four hours. While working at the testing center, students receive in-depth, behind-the-scenes training that concerns the logistical side of testing. By shadowing an experienced volunteer, student volunteers are able to familiarize themselves with the testing process and the details involved. The biggest challenge facing most testing center volunteers is getting accustomed to the computer technology, but staff at the testing center note that students do not often encounter this issue.
“[Student volunteers] jump right back onto the computer quicker than one of the older employees who might take a little longer to refamiliarize themselves,” Covid-19 Testing Center Manager Matt Lillibridge said. “The training is simple, per se.”
Although the testing process itself may not require highly-skilled medical knowledge, students believe that volunteering at the center retains great educational value.
“I think it’s a great way to interact with members of the Bowdoin community that you might not see in your normal day-to-day activities, and I’ve really enjoyed it so far,” student volunteer Chess Cawley ’22 wrote in an email to the Orient.
Students have been performing well at the center, although they have encountered some hiccups.
“The greatest challenge we have faced was that somebody accidentally deleted everything on the sign-up spreadsheet,” co-leader of the Public Health Club Maia Hirsch ’22 said.
Despite various challenges, students value their ability to volunteer at the testing center.
“My time at the testing center has shown me just how much hard work goes on behind the scenes and how many people continue to dedicate their time to ensure the wellbeing of the Bowdoin community,” student volunteer Neda Moussapour ’22 said.