As a young, rather lost university student, I decided to explore some volunteer options within my own community of Saskatoon to find a career path. I feel fortunate to have come across the Student Wellness Initiative Toward Community Health (SWITCH), which is a student led, non-profit, registered charitable volunteer organization. For me personally, SWITCH is what truly allowed me to find and practice my passion for human health and welfare. SWITCH was created by students of the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina back in 2005 and it provides students like myself with the opportunity to engage with the community and gain valuable experience in a health care environment under the guidance of qualified health care professionals. SWITCH volunteers enrolled in professional programs such as medicine, physical therapy, and nursing provide holistic treatment to patients under the supervision of their mentors. Undergrad student volunteers like myself volunteer with meal preparation, patient statistics, programming activities, and childminding (my personal favorite!). SWITCH exists within the Westside Community Clinic (one of two locations of the Saskatoon Community Clinic) which is notably the only primary health care facility in Saskatoon that operates as a co-operative.
Prior to becoming the administrative assistant for the Saskatchewan Co-op Association, I had not really given the Westside Community Clinic being a registered co-op much of a thought, however I have recently come to appreciate the uniqueness of this partnership. The clinic being a co-op enables it to be guided by its own members to ensure that it is accurately serving its community’s medical needs as co-ops focus on supporting and promoting community welfare. Since its establishment in 1962, the Saskatoon Community Clinic has been providing medical treatment to community members while upholding values such as collaboration, accountability, respect, engagement, and equity. SWITCH recognizes itself as a community health centre with an emphasis on community well-being, health equity, and a focus on the social determinants of health. These fundamentals, and those of a co-operative are well aligned.
Much like a co-op, SWITCH has taught me how to work with others to collectively reach a higher purpose. SWITCH makes students aware of the problems that Saskatoon’s community members are facing, and these interactions are valuable as they provide young people with information now so that they may have the power to implement needed changes when it is their time to enter the health care field. The partnership between SWITCH and the Saskatoon Community Clinic provides students with inspiration and the tools necessary to create a future in healthcare that is inclusive, equitable, and considers individual needs and wants. I am truly grateful for my time spent at SWITCH and the Westside Community Clinic as it has taught me the importance of involvement and reaching out, and the difference you can make in a person’s life just by taking a moment to listen.
Currently enrolled students or professionals wishing to mentor students interesting in volunteering at SWITCH once COVID-19 settles down are welcome to visit http://switchclinic.com/ for more information. It is also still possible to become a member of the Saskatoon Community Clinic at this time via their website; https://www.saskatooncommunityclinic.ca/become-a-member/.
The attached photo was provided courtesy of SWITCH and may not be used without permission.
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