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  • Volunteer Patients

    Who can be a volunteer patient?

    Volunteer patients are real people who allow medical students to interview them about their health, family and lifestyle; or to conduct non-invasive physical examinations. They are:

    • of any age (infants, youth, adolescents or older adults)
    • people from all walks of life
    • healthy or living with an illness or disability

    Volunteer patients find their sessions with medical students interesting and informative. They also learn from the experience, and gain satisfaction from knowing that they are making a difference in helping future health care professionals learn about “clinical” and “people” skills.

    See profiles of some of our volunteer patients >

    Volunteer Patients (VPs) for Clinical Skills

    In the Clinical Skills course, students are introduced to and develop basic skills in communication, components of health history, basic medical instruments and the physical examination. Volunteer Patients (VP) play an important role in the student’s learning experience in this course. Students practice their clinical and communication skills (i.e., histories, interviews, and/or physical examinations) and volunteer patients share their authentic medical information.

    Depending on the type of session, students may ask the VP questions regarding health history, daily routine, psychosocial aspects of their lives or family background. This questioning can be very personal. Volunteer patients are in control of the depth of information they are willing to provide and are not obligated in any way to talk about matters they do not wish to share. However, we would be very grateful if you would allow our students to talk to, examine and learn from you about your illness, both from the medical symptoms and findings as well as the impacts on your life and your family. This will allow our students to learn from your experience of illness and is a vital contribution to their medical training.

    The Island Medical Program is bound by the health professional’s Code of Ethics, therefore volunteer patients can be assured that all information is kept in the strictest of confidence.

    Volunteer Patients for DPAS (Doctor, Patient and Society)

    If you are someone with a chronic medical condition, you may be able to help us educate our student doctors about this important aspect of patient care. The Doctor, Patient and Society (DPAS) course requires volunteers for home-based interviews.

    The goal of the at-home interview is to enable a first year medical student to talk to you in person about the social, rather than clinical, aspects of life with a chronic condition. While your condition may require that you spend considerable amounts of time in clinics or hospitals, this is only one aspect of your condition. Medical students also want to know:

    • What are your experiences with a chronic condition in your everyday activities?
    • How do parents of children with chronic medical conditions deal with the illness?
    • How do health care professionals and informal caregivers assist you in dealing with your condition?

    Students will spend a couple of hours with you, learning about your medical condition and how it affects your life. You do not have to answer any questions that you consider too personal or intrusive.

    As a person with a chronic medical condition it is likely you have a wealth of experience about the day to day issues of living with your disease. Our students would benefit greatly from your knowledge and insight.

    Volunteer Patients with chronic conditions - what types are needed?

    Psychiatry/Mental Health Issues:

    • Schizophrenia
    • Depression
    • Bi-polar
    • Anxiety Disorders
    • Eating Disorders

    Chronic Complex Medical Conditions:

    • For History and Physical Examinations in a clinical setting (Clinical Skills)
    • One-on-one at home interviews (DPAS)

    Peripheral Vascular Conditions:

    • Symptoms that can be diagnosed on examination


    • Motor, Sensory
    • Coordination & Gait
    • Cranial Nerves
    • Mental Status


    • Cardiac conditions with audible sounds, both adult and child


    • Healthy children between 4 and 12 years and
    • Children with complex medical conditions


    • Chronic Skin Conditions
    • Hair Loss
    • Fungal Infections


    • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other chronic Pulmonary conditions

    Frequently asked questions about becoming a volunteer patient

    1) How often would I be scheduled ?

    As a volunteer patient you would receive an orientation interview and tour of the facilities. At this time you would be asked to fill out an information form about your health and sign a consent form. This usually takes about an hour.

    During the academic year (September to November and January to May) volunteer patients are carefully matched to clinical sessions and course requirements. Most volunteers are scheduled once or twice a month. Scheduling is done at the volunteer patient's convenience and is based on the type of session for which they are best suited.

    2) Participation in Physical Examinations

    For volunteer patients with medical conditions, we would be grateful if you would allow our students to talk to, examine and learn from you about how your illness. This would allow our students to learn from your experience of illness and is a vital contribution to their medical training.

    When participating in physical examination sessions you will be asked to change into a hospital gown so that areas (eg. knees, abdomen, chest) may be examined.

    You may choose not to participate in sessions involving physical examinations. As a volunteer patient, you decide what sessions you would feel comfortable doing.

    3) Will I be a research subject?

    No, the Island Medical Program does not involve our volunteer patients in research activities at this time.

    4) Do volunteer patient sessions involve diagnosis or treatment?

    These are learning sessions and are not a substitute for care, advice or treatment. Our students are in the very early stages of their learning and are not ready to perform or provide this care. Your participation will help prepare them by providing opportunities to practice the basics, such as taking a health history, listening to the heart or lungs, or learning the developmental differences between a 6 month old and a 2 year old.

    5) What about transportation or parking?

    Most of the sessions take place at the Royal Jubilee Hospital with an occasional session at either the Victoria General Hospital or at the Medical Sciences Building at the University of Victoria. There is no allocated parking for volunteers at any of these sites. However, an honorarium is offered to help defray the costs of transportation and parking.

    Next steps?

    If you are interested in becoming a volunteer patient, please contact:

    Karen Basi
    Patient Programs Coordinator,
    Island Medical Program

    250-370-8111 ext: 12386