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Karoleen Boutros volunteered with UC San Diego Health at Thornton Hospital

Karoleen is a recently graduated Global Health major. She is a local of San Diegan and an Iraqi from birth. Karoleen transferred from a community college to UCSD in the Fall of 2018. She hopes to attend graduate school and receive her Doctor's Degree in Physical Therapy.


For 6 months, Karoleen volunteered with UC San Diego Health at Thornton Hospital in La Jolla. UC San Diego Health offers opportunities for volunteers to help UC San Diego Health personnel with patient care, and doing administrative hospital tasks, education and research where the role of volunteers is not to replace, but to supplement the regular professional staff, allowing them to provide the highest quality of care.

“I worked at Thornton Pavilion in the advanced surgical care unit of complex spine and joint reconstruction. My routine shift was four hours on Saturday night working with different nurses staff every week . As soon as I clock in and walk to my unit, I began performing a variety of tasks according to the training that I had received when I first started volunteering.”

Karoleen answered phones, and filed documents. She also greeted patients and visitors and escorted patients to departments and units, oftentimes assisting with wheelchair transport. Karoleen also supported the nursing staff by running any important errands; delivering equipment and lab specimens, answering patient call bells, and organizing supplies.

Karoleen found her biggest challenge to be interacting with patients who were in serious pain.

“Some of the patient's family members would talk to me and cry because they would be so worried. At first I did not know what to do and how to comfort them and make them think that everything would be fine, but later I learned how to listen to them and be empathetic and make sure they know that they are not alone during these hard times because all of the hospital staff are doing their best to help them.”

Despite this initial obstacle, Karoleen finds that her time spent volunteering was a great experience.

“I loved going there every Saturday, with each shift I was in, I had learned something new. I have had a great experience and built relationships with the wonderful hospital staff, nurses in my unit and patients at Thornton Pavilion.

Karoleen also notes that while volunteering, she gained invaluable experience that would one day help her in her future career of becoming a physical therapist. She was able to volunteer in the advanced surgical care unit of complex spine and joint reconstruction.

“I loved going there and helping people, this boosted my confidence and abilities to help them. My favorite memory is seeing the smile on the patient's face when the doctor discharges them and they are ready to go home.”

In her free time, Karoleen would organize her desk, or go and ask the nurses if they needed any additional support. She would also stack medical equipment such as masks and gloves and bring IV poles or other machines needed for the empty rooms. Karoleen would also copy and update the patients list names within her unit and distribute that to all the disks to make it easier to know which patient belongs to which room in case they needed something.

Karoleen has found that her global health coursework has had many ties to her field experience.

“In my classes I’m also learning how to deal with people from different cultural backgrounds. In addition to understanding the healthcare system and learning about practice of medicine and increasing healthcare equity which I was learning about also in my field experience.”

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