Volunteering in Costa Rica – Medical Social Worker

Posted by: Dana U.

Overall, my internship experience was challenging, productive, and very fulfilling. I spent a total of 600 hours at the Social Work Internships project, where the majority of my time was spent in the health clinic conducting interviews that focused on the social determinants of health among the patients who visited this health center.

The clinic functions only to serve the uninsured, and due to this a large majority of the patients are from Nicaragua.

I also spent a considerable amount of my time in the Social Work Office organizing and reporting on data that I had collected from earlier interviews in the center, with the purpose of collecting data for a research project that I plan to carry out.

My supervisor gave me a substantial amount of freedom, and also collaborated with me on my ideas, which made the volunteer experience exciting and one that constantly evolved. I was able to create nearly all of the data collection instruments related to the interviews in the center: an interview form in Spanish, a list of external referral references, an interview database, and a document for the doctor highlighting psycho-social information regarding the patient during the interview.

Additionally, I was the first intern to work at this placement as a Medical Social Worker, so it took some time to feel out what my role would be. As I mentioned, my supervisor gave me space to work independently often, but was also available to check on the progress of my work, as everything was conducted in Spanish.I was grateful for her leadership style because it allowed me to formulate and test my own ideas, while still involving her perspective and advice within this process. I believe that this dynamic led each of us to learn a great from one another, and I loved volunteering in Costa Rica!