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As I have mentioned I am working on applying to medical school this year. Part of medical school applications involve showing an understanding of the work a medical professional does. This means that in order to have a competitive application I must have spent some time shadowing medical professionals as well as volunteering in a medical capacity. I’ve done this in the past, but it’s been a little while so I am going to do it all over again. This means jumping through the beaurocratic hoops required before one can spending any time in a patient contact setting.

I understand most of these hoops. I need to be trained in HIPAA and show an understanding of what it means to respect patient confidentiality as well as a willingness to do so. I must show an understanding of basic hospital procedures. I must be vaccinated against certain infectious diseases, and I must pass a criminal background check. I understand and applaud these efforts to keep people in a vulnerable position (the patients) safe, despite the fact that it often takes more than a month to jump through these hoops and be approved to work/volunteer in a clinical setting.

In filling out all these formed I came across a question on the medical form: “I certify that to the best of my knowledge I have 1) no long-term medical or psychological condition or 2) any other reason that might prevent me from safely working as a volunteer: OR “I am under a doctor’s or therapist’s care for a long-term medical or psychological condition, and have a letter from him/her that I can safely and reliably work as a volunteer.”
I am really not a fan of this. This could be taken to mean that a person diagnosed with depression in the past (a psychological condition) who is no longer under a therapist’s care is unable to volunteer, even if they pose no threat to patients. And let’s be honest here — how many people with depression (or any other mental health condition) are going to pose a threat to the patients?

I resent the implications that any long-term psychological (of which even “minor” depression could count) or medical condition could preclude a person from being a safe and reliable volunteer. I have always been suspicious of medical records and mental or physical health problems as I have felt like in the long run they could affect a person’s career or life prospects.

I find the question insulting, but I also understand the reasoning. I mean the hospital would have huge liabilities if they allowed an actively psychotic person to volunteer helping vulnerable patients. However, I feel like the question affects a much wider segment of the population who would never pose such a risk and whose privacy could be potentially violated in the asking of such questions.

What do you think? Am I over-reacting to this?

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