The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly altered the traditional predental
experience. Due to this public health crisis, there are a number of requests
from community-led initiatives, government agencies, charitable organizations
and nonprofits in public health for volunteers in a variety of roles. This
pandemic, although dreadful, offers unique opportunities for prehealth students
to serve their local community. However, students must make informed decisions
and maintain a superior standard of care to prevent further community spread to
themselves and others. Not only will this add valuable skills to your
repertoire, but it will also benefit those who need it most during this
As future health professionals, you must make informed decisions before
committing to these volunteering experiences. Here are a few important
questions to keep in mind before venturing out to your next volunteer
does this role specifically entail? Who am I benefiting and at what cost?
the services that I’m volunteering for absolutely crucial during a
training and supervision will I receive? Will I be offered safety training
in this role?
I be offered the correct safety equipment, such as appropriate personal
protective equipment (PPE)?
is the likelihood of being exposed or spreading the COVID-19 virus further
in this role?
will I manage my well-being in the case that I become ill?
any of these tasks be completed remotely?
If you choose to engage in these public health activities, make sure you
can confidently answer these questions before committing. If you’re unclear or
uncomfortable about any of the tasks being asked of you, do not hesitate to ask
for clarification and support from the organization. Remember, there is nothing
wrong with centering both your safety and the safety of those around you!
Opportunities in Your Community
In spite of the pandemic, volunteer opportunities are still available,
especially to those interested in public health. Reach out to local public
health agencies to see if there are any opportunities available, provided they
prevent or minimize the spread of COVID-19 in the community. Opportunities
include the delivery of resources, such as PPE or food resources, and symptom
screening of community members. Examples of in-person volunteer opportunities
screening at community health clinics,
pantry assistance or volunteer grocery delivery programs,
health agencies, such as needle exchange programs or communicable disease office
support volunteers and
Opportunities at a Distance
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations cancelled
fundraisers or community initiatives, saw declining donations and had to reduce
volunteer and staff hours substantially. However, some organizations have
adapted to these changes by shifting their efforts. Virtual or remote
volunteering opportunities have been very popular during the pandemic and
provide ample opportunities for predental students to develop their skills.
There are many opportunities for students to contribute to community care
without engaging in direct physical contact. Examples of these opportunities
health support via helplines,
support caller to long-term care homes,
collection of PPE or food resources,
research on the effects of COVID-19 and
of health promotion material for non-English speakers.
Your support of community service initiatives is admirable, especially
during a global pandemic; however, you must ensure the safety and well-being of
yourself and those around you. Remember to protect yourself using safety
precautions, monitor up-to-date public health advice and stay informed about
the potential risks of participating in volunteer opportunities.