When a patient fractured his ankle last month, a local orthopedic surgeon responded immediately with a consultation appointment and performed the needed surgery within the week. A volunteer, optometrist concerned about a patient with possible glaucoma, called her ophthalmologist colleague who agreed to see the patient at no cost. One of our newest providers started volunteering with us in his teens and recently returned as a seasoned physician who, after just two months, has already referred a colleague to volunteer. This is just a small sampling of what Arlington Free Clinic was able to do in the past couple of months by harnessing the enormous power of volunteers.
AFC was founded by volunteers from the Arlington County Medical Society nearly three decades ago. To this day, volunteers remain at the heart of everything we do. Our clinic is unique in the size and strength of its volunteer program. AFC employs one staff nurse practitioner, but the rest of our medical care is given by volunteers. Beyond the 150 providers who volunteer onsite or provide pro bono care in their private offices, hundreds of nurses, EMTs, medical assistants, interpreters, pharmacists, counselors, exercise instructors, physical therapists, and administrative and fundraising volunteers are involved in every area of the programs and operations of AFC.
A talented staff team supports our mighty volunteer corps and provides the strong foundation that backs up their work. Assured of the quality of follow-up and close monitoring their complex patients receive, volunteers place enormous trust in our staff and feel passionate about investing their valuable time and expertise here. The result is an organization in which hundreds of community members have the opportunity to play mission-critical, highly fulfilling roles that have enormous direct impact on the health and well-being of their neighbors.
The topic of our volunteer model and its sustainability was explored quite a bit recently as we were developing a new strategic plan. The resounding feedback was to uphold our special model that, after nearly 30 years, continues to provide exceptional care for our patients and meaningful experiences for those who serve.
Joan Bowes Ritter, MD