What is a Volunteer Medical Advocate?
Volunteer Medical Advocates are the backbone of our organization. Through our volunteers, Resilience is able to reach hundreds of survivors who seek care in a hospital following an experience of sexual violence. Volunteer Medical Advocates complete 60 hours of training and then agree to at least one year of service in our on-call rotation, providing crisis support to survivors in hospitals throughout the Chicago area. Medical advocates are trained to provide crisis intervention and offer emotional support to survivors and their loved ones. Additionally, advocates ensure that survivors are aware of the options and rights available to them. Our volunteers advocate with medical providers, law enforcement, and other community partners on behalf of the survivor with the survivor’s consent. Lastly, our volunteers are able to connect survivors with ongoing trauma therapy services, medical advocacy and legal advocacy through Resilience and connect survivors to other community resources as needed. We are only able to serve so many survivors each year because of the work of our incredible volunteers.
What is the volunteer commitment?
We ask that all Volunteer Medical Advocates commit to picking up 24 on-call shifts (~2 shifts per month). Each shift is 12 hours spanning from 7am-7pm or 7pm-7am. Volunteer advocates will choose when they want to be on the schedule.
How is COVID-19 continuing to impact the program?
Our 60-hour volunteer training has been moved to an online platform. All the learning and role-plays are conducted live and remotely. Additionally, we have moved all the intake forms and other documents to electronic platforms so that volunteers can submit client paperwork electronically without needing to come into our offices. All medical advocacy is conducted in-person in Chicago-area hospitals and volunteers are expected to comply with hospital protocol around COVID-19.
Is it possible to volunteer without signing a volunteer contract?
Yes, but we prioritize seats in the training for folks who are willing to sign the volunteer contract with us.
What if I don’t live in the Chicago area?
Volunteer Medical Advocates must be able to arrive to the hospitals that we serve approximately 45 minutes. If you live outside the city of Chicago, we may be able to help you connect with a crisis center in your area who may also welcome your support. If you live in the adjacent suburbs and have access to reliable transportation, you are eligible (as long as you can get to any of our partner hospitals within about 45 minutes). You can also find your local center by searching https://icasa.org/crisis-centers.
Is it necessary to complete a background check in order to volunteer with Resilience?
Yes. Per our funding requirements all those involved in our work will be required to be fingerprinted and provide consent for us to run a criminal background check. Additionally, we are required to request a background check with the Department of Children and Family Services. The results may implicate one’s ability to volunteer with Resilience. If you have questions about this, please connect with us directly.
Do I need a car to be able to volunteer with the medical advocacy program?
No. As long as you are able to arrive to any of our partner hospitals within about 45 minutes, you are welcome to utilize whatever method of transportation is best for you (car, taxi, bike, train, bus, walk, etc.). We are able to call an Uber on behalf of volunteers (to and from the hospital) so no reimbursement is required. If you choose another transportation method, we are able to reimburse round trip for the following costs:
- Parking fees (some limited apply) and mileage roundtrip for those who drive to hospitals
- Cab fares and ride shares including Lyft and Uber (excluding tip and any additional fees)
- CTA train/bus fares
Are there volunteer opportunities available for those who are not cisgender women?
Absolutely! We are proud that our Volunteer Medical Advocates represent a diverse spectrum of various gender identities and expressions. We recognize that sexual violence impacts all people and further disproportionality impacts LGBTQIA+ individuals. When we receive a request from a hospital for an advocate, we will ask the survivor if they have a gender preference for their advocate and dispatch to the hospital accordingly.
I have completed an application. Now what?
Hang tight. We will review all applications shortly before the orientation session is scheduled. If your application is approved, you will receive an email inviting you to a virtual orientation session. At orientation, we will share more information about the program, answer questions, and ask participants to sign up for individual interviews to determine if the applicant is a good fit for our program.
When will I hear if I have been accepted into the training?
After attending an orientation session and completing an individual interview, the Advocacy Volunteer Supervisor will contact every applicant via email before the training starts to let them know if they have been accepted into the training.
Upon conclusion of the training, will I be a certified Rape Crisis Counselor?
At the conclusion of the training you will receive a certificate that states that you have “completed 60 hours of sexual assault crisis intervention training in accordance with Illinois law and the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault service standards.” Individuals are only considered a Certified Rape Crisis Counselor after completing the training and while providing services on behalf of a certified rape crisis center (e.g. volunteering with Resilience).
What is the cost of the training?
- Cost for those accepted as a volunteer: $75
- Cost for those taking the training for professional training purposes only: $150–$300, depending on the type of agency
- A sliding scale option is available for volunteers who may need the financial assistance
When will payment be collected?
Instructions on how to make an electronic payment will be emailed to accepted applicants.
Where will the training take place?
Training will take place via Zoom and participants are expected to keep their cameras on during the training in order to maximize engagement with presenters.
What if I cannot make all the training dates?
We can accommodate one missed session ONLY. Any missed material will need to be made up in order to be certified following the conclusion of training. If attendance is a concern, we recommend you consider attending a future training session (60-hour trainings are offered quarterly).
Can I eat during the virtual training?
Absolutely! You can eat while you learn and we will hold at least a 15-minute break during each session.
As a Volunteer Medical Advocate, can I choose which calls I will respond to?
No. Our resources are limited and we will use whomever we have on-call to make sure all calls are responded to. This means that all advocates must be willing and prepared to respond to any call regardless of location, age, or gender of the survivor, or the amount of time remaining on their shift.
As a volunteer advocate, what hospitals will I be expect to respond to?
For a complete hospital list, please visit our website at www.ourresilience.org/what-you-need-to-know/faq.
How long is each on-call shift?
Each day we have two shifts. A shift runs from 7am to 7pm or 7pm to 7am. Advocates are responsible for signing up for shifts that work within their schedule. Advocates will not be assigned to shifts and can choose between day, night, weekday or weekend shifts. Advocates are expected to be available for dispatch throughout the entire duration of their shift. This may mean that an advocate will be on a hospital call beyond the 12 hours of their shift, in cases where the call may have come in later in the shift. In short, advocates must be prepared to start a call at any point throughout the 12-hour on-call period and should plan to be available for roughly 20-24 hours in case a long call comes in near the end of the scheduled shift.
How many calls will I respond to during a shift?
It is hard to predict how many hospital calls you might be asked to respond to during an on-call shift. Some advocates have taken shifts where they weren’t dispatched at all, while others have taken one, two or even three calls during the shift. On average, you can expect 1-2 calls per shift.
Will I be responding to calls alone?
Yes. We do not use a shadowing system. Our advocates undergo extensive training involving role plays to prepare them to respond to survivors in the ER. Once an advocate has completed our training, they will be able to sign up for shifts and respond to calls independently. However, while on a call, each advocate will have ongoing access to a shift supervisor who is available to answer questions, help them navigate tricky situations, and offer emotional support. The shift supervisor will be in contact with the advocate via phone call and text.
What support systems are available for volunteers?
Vicarious trauma is real. The Advocacy Volunteer Supervisor is always available to volunteers to debrief calls, process emotions, and answer questions. They can be reached virtually by appointment or via email/telephone during office hours.
Additionally, Resilience holds a monthly virtual Volunteer Support Group where volunteers are encouraged to join us in creating a supportive space for one another. The purpose of this space is to discuss calls, questions, triggers, struggles, burn-out, and victories related to doing this work. Volunteers are welcome to come receive/offer support to one another. Moreover, throughout training we will partner each trainee with a mentor and mentor group who may be an additional point of contact and support. Mentors are veteran advocates who have lots of hospital experience.
Lastly, we recognize that community is important when doing this work. Resilience holds quarterly social opportunities for advocates to meet volunteers from other classes and create a larger support network. We have extended this community into virtual space by creating a private volunteer Facebook page and Instagram account where we celebrate one another and have conversations around relevant current events.
Can I continue to volunteer with Resilience when I have completed my contract?
Absolutely! Additionally, graduated options may be available to folks who have excelled in the hospitals.
What if I already have the 40-Hour certification from another state?
Because each state has their own set of sexual assault laws and standards for certification, we cannot accept out-of-state certificates. Individuals who were trained in another state will need to complete minimally 60 hours of training with Resilience in order to be eligible to volunteer with us.
What if I already have the 40-Hour certification from another Illinois-based crisis center?
Those who have been trained with another crisis center in Illinois will be asked to apply, attend orientation, and, if accepted, attend 20+ hours of refresher training. Refresher training takes place concurrently with our new volunteer training.