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Become a Family-Centered Experience (FCE) program volunteer

Qualifications for volunteers

 Volunteers and their families are invaluable resources for medical students and their education. We are recruiting volunteers that meet the following qualifications:

  • Have or care for an individual with a medical or mental disability or illness that significantly impacts their daily life, such as, diabetes, COPD/asthma, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, alcoholism in recovery, etc. This is not a complete list.
  • Commitment to mentor students for at least two years
  • Allow students to conduct visits at home or another agreed-upon location.
  • Openly share stories about the illness and daily life.
  • Require regular physician visits for treatment of illness.

Steps to become an FCE volunteer

  1. Complete and submit the FCE application.
  2. Print, sign and mail the informed consent form.
  3. Once received, applications are reviewed by FCE staff and physicians.
  4. An FCE staff member schedules a follow-up telephone interview with candidate.
  5. If accepted into the program, the volunteer meets their paired first-year medical students at a welcome event held at the beginning of the academic year.
  6. The volunteer and two medical students will determine the best times and place to meet throughout the next two years.
  7. Evaluate students and share feedback with FCE staff.
  8. Determine if you would like to continue to volunteer for another two-year mentorship.

FAQs about FCE 

What is the time commitment?
There are six visits in total – three in the first year and three in the second year. Most visits will occur in the volunteer’s home or other agreed upon location and last approximately one to two hours. Generally, there is one visit in the fall, one in the winter and one in the spring. We ask participants for a commitment of two years so that students can follow you and your family through all required visits. As we navigate through COVID-19, your safety and well-being remain our top priorities. Meetings with students will be conducted by following state and federal guidelines and use of phone calls and video chats can be used as alternative options to home visits.

What is the length of each visit?
Each of the six visits throughout the two-year timeframe could last approximately one to three hours. The length of each visit depends upon the volunteer family and the students. Because this process creates a working relationship, the length of time is determined by the volunteer and the student.

Is there compensation for time?
While not compensated financially, volunteer families receive tremendous satisfaction from working with Geisinger Commonwealth students. Volunteer families influence the way tomorrow’s doctors are trained in a significant way. The college hosts a welcome reception to thank volunteers and their families for their commitment.

Do I have to have a traditional family to qualify for the program? 
No. The term family in the Family-Centered Experience is very broadly defined as a group of people on whom one depends for emotional or other support. The FCE program is deeply committed to diversity among volunteers. We can all learn from the mixture of voices and experiences that come from our community.

Will the students live with me? 
No. Students have established housing.

When the students are in my home, do I need to serve them refreshments or food? 
No. Your willingness to talk with medical students about your personal health experiences is enough of a gift. Some families invite students to share a meal; however, it is not expected nor is it required.

Can the students give me or my family medical care? 
No. FCE staff request that you keep medical questions for the healthcare teams treating you and not the medical students as they are in the early stages of training. Medical students are not yet qualified to provide any medical advice or medical care. 

How will you use my confidential information?
Following each visit, students discuss and explore their thoughts and experiences in small-group sessions led by a faculty member at Geisinger Commonwealth. Confidentiality is mandatory and great efforts are made to preserve confidentiality within and outside the small-group learning sessions. In fact, understanding the importance of confidentiality related to medical care is a primary goal for medical students.

Contact us

Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine
Family-Centered Experience
Medical Sciences Building
Regional Campus Office
525 Pine St.
Scranton, PA 18509
Fax:  570-504-9636

Carly Ellman MSW, LCSW
Program Director, Family-Centered Experience
Assistant Professor of Medicine

Sharon Myers
Program Liaison, Family-Centered Experience, North Campus