Patient Care Volunteer

Volunteer Ladies of the Children´s Hospital - San Jose, Costa Rica
Quick Facts: Placement ID: IND-522 Location: San Jose, Costa Rica Sector: Health Care Category: Medicine Min Duration: 1 week Lodging: BaseCamp or Host Family Language: Intermediate
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Volunteer Job Description

Health care in Costa Rica is publicly provided; however, since San Jose has over a third of the countries population, hospitals in this area experience a huge number of clientele through their doors and human traffic is consistently backed up and overcrowded situations are always a problem. The hospital lacks the personnel required to handle all the patient's needs, in a timely and thorough manner.

In this National Pediatric Hospital in San Jose, patient interaction is a critical part of recovery; something it is often lacking due to rushed doctors and nurses struggling to care for large numbers of children at a time. Patient care volunteers can play an important role in a child's mental well-being, by playing and talking to them, as well as attending to the non-medical needs of these babies and children who are being treated for or recovering from a serious illness or injury.

It is important that patient care volunteers motivate the children to accept their treatment by helping them to understand the procedures, (if old enough) or just making them laugh in order to reduce their stress. Volunteers need to show compassion and warmth to these children who are often alone because their parents or guardians need to work. Volunteers will interact with the recovering children and perhaps their parents or caregivers who may need emotional support.

A patient care volunteer does not need to have medical training for this placement as they will not be involved in medical procedures. However, they do need to have a love for children and a sincere desire to care for the emotional needs of kids.

Volunteers must wear the hospital's uniform (a t-shirt they provide two of), long pants (no leggings), and closed-toed flat shoes. The T-shirt will be purchased by the volunteer at a cost of 6500 Colones, roughly $12 CAD. A neat and tidy appearance is very important, no long earrings or jewellery allowed and shirts must be tucked in.

Volunteer Tasks Required

Neonatal Patient Care Assistant

Patient care volunteers will be requested to help in the neonatal division of the hospital. Changing diapers, feeding babies or just taking care of the new born babies when their families can't be with them.

General Patient Care Assistant

When patient care volunteers are not needed in the neonatal department, they will be required to help in other areas of the hospital. The volunteers will help to take care of the children when family members can't. Volunteers may be asked to feed and dress them and change the diapers of the younger patients.

Play With the Children

There are some children who have been hospitalized for a long period of time and it is important that they interact with other children. Patient care volunteers will take the children, (who are able), to the games room to play with other kids. There are toys, coloring books, card games etc. to help keep them amused.

Studies Support

Patient care volunteers, (depending on their level of Spanish), may be asked to help the children with their studies. If a child is confined to hospital for an extended period of time, he/she will quickly get behind in their studies. This is stressful for some children and therefore help with school lessons is appreciated.

Support in the Laundry Area

Patient care volunteers are needed when family members aren't present. However, in the afternoons this is often not the case, therefore, childcare volunteers would be asked to work in the laundry folding clothes.

Blood Donor Clinic

Patient care volunteers when not needed to assist with the care of the children may be asked to help in the blood donor clinic. At the clinic duties may include restocking shelves, filing documents, assisting the donors non-medically etc.

Host Organization Details

Volunteer Ladies of the Children´s Hospital

The Volunteer Ladies of the National Children´s Hospital has been providing services for children in Costa Rica for over 50 years. This organization works at the National Pediatric Hospital in Costa Rica which is known throughout Central America for the excellent quality of care they provide.

Until the 1950's there were no medical centers that were dedicated solely to the care of children, in Costa Rica. Dr. Carlos Saenz Herrera became greatly concerned about the lack of trained pediatricians and the number of children who's conditions could not receive up-to-date treatment due to the lack of pediatric resources. Dr. Herrera decided that he needed to do everything possible to correct this situation. He immediately began seeking funds for the Hospital Nacional de Ninos. Thus, Costa Rica's only national children's hospital was established.

The Volunteer Ladies of the National Children´s Hospital, created a program within the hospital that provides warmth, friendship and care not only to the sick children but also to their families visiting them, while in hospital. Through time, the volunteer ladies extended their help to include numerous small duties that not only helped and sometimes entertained the children but also freed-up time for the medical staff to be able to concentrate their efforts towards medical endeavors.

The Volunteer Ladies of the National Children´s Hospital is a perpetual organization, private, independent, nonprofit and nonpolitical, in the service of care and entertainment for sick children, while in hospital. The organization strives to assist the hospitalized children and their families in every non-medical way possible; be it social, economical or emotional.

When They Were Founded

The San Juan de Dios Hospital, provided medical care to children in Costa Rica, since its founding in 1845. At first, children were hospitalized in rooms for adults and when their numbers in hospital increased, it was decided to establish a pediatric department, but no separate rooms. In 1932, due to a vast increase of hospitalized children, they were moved to a separate wooden building in San Jose. 

In 1945 one of the events commemorating the centennial of the San Juan Hospital, was the opening of a, "Section of Pediatrics", in Hospital, San Juan de Dios, with a capacity of 140 beds for children.

Because of the polio epidemic that affected the child population in Costa Rica in 1954, the "Section of Pediatrics", San Juan de Dios, faced serious problems that were both medically and administratively generated by the unexpected increase in the number of patients. This situation inspired Dr. Carlos Sáenz Herrera to seek funds to build an adequate facility for the care of children. A project that began with the wholehearted support of the Social Protection Board of San José and distinguished personalities in their society including a group of neighborhood ladies, (they had gathered to help in the care of children during the polio epidemic). First known as the "Grey Ladies" and in 1954 became the, Volunteer Ladies of the National Children's Hospital.

How Are They Funded

Volunteer Ladies of the National Children´s Hospital do not receive any funds from the government but they do receive funds from private donors. Also, the Volunteer Ladies of the organization, as a support system for their cause, each make a monthly donation.

Donation Requests

Children's books (preferably in Spanish), new children's toys, stickers/ coloring books, colored markers, pens, pencils, erasers, children´s clothing and diapers, as well as, food for the poor.

Placement Location Information

San Jose, Costa Rica

The Hospital Nacional de Niños, which opened in 1964, is located in the heart of Costa Rica's capital city, San Jose. For more than 45 years the hospital has provided specialized services to meet the medical needs of Costa Rica’s children. It was created after a severe polio epidemic in the 1950s, which left 2,000 children with severe disabilities. Today the hospital includes 331 beds, 64 speciality and subspeciality units and 145 doctors. In 2005, there were 350,000 total visits, (approximately 183,000 were outpatients). It is one of the most active hospitals in Latin America.

San Jose, established in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, is home to one third of the population of the country. It is considered the political, transportation, and entertainment centre. The hospital is approximately 30 minutes from the BaseCamp Center.

Transfer From BaseCamp

The hospital is a half hour walk from the house. Once on Calle Centrale, continue in a straight line west, towards Coca Cola station. Once past the station, continue walking and the hospital will be on the left side of the street. It is also possible to take a bus to Pedestrian Avenue and walk from there.

Distance & Time

Distance from BaseCamp: 15 km
Travel Time from BaseCamp: 0:30

Weather in the Area

San José City lies in the Torrid Zone and is in a tropical rainforest. However its elevation gives it a mild climate. Under the Köppen climate classification it features a tropical wet climate that borders on a subtropical highland climate.

The temperature ranges between 17 and 30 °C (63 and 86 °F). Relative humidity averages 68.2% (with extremes of 55% in March and 78% in October) and the daily range tends to be between 60% and 90%, with the humidity typically dropping to the lower end of this range near mid-day and rising again during the night.

It rains on an average of 170 days per year but half the rainfall pours down on only 15 of these days. The rainy season is from May to mid-November, but cloudiness and rainfall can occur during the dry season. There are approximately 2040 hours of sunshine per year. The weather is also very windy.

City/Village Description

San Jose is situated in the central valley and is home to one third of the population of Costa Rica. It is the political, transportation, and entertainment centre.

San Jose is a hub of art, culture, and international events. There is a large system of inter-city parks, full of rare breeds of trees and plants, as well as statues of important figures in Costa Rican history. Festivals happen regularly, providing a unique look into contemporary Costa Rican culture. There are many opportunities in San Jose to learn to salsa, meringue or samba. San Jose has some incredible restaurants serving local and international fare, and has several cinemas showing Latin American films. The night life in San Jose is happening, and there are many great clubs in which to dance the night away.

San Jose, is a fascinating city from a political perspective: as the only democratic nation to decline a national army (instead choosing to allocate funds to public health care), the capital has long been a centre for Central American peace talks and forums. A politically active city, San José, serves as the headquarters for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Nearest Medical Clinic

Hospital San Juan de Dios
Street 20 Central Avenue
Paseo Colón
San Jose
TEL 1: 2257-6282

Placement Address

Volunteer Ladies of the Children´s Hospital
Paseo Colon, Avenida Central Calle 20
San Jose
Costa Rica

Accommodation and Meals

All of our volunteers begin their stay in Costa Rica at our BaseCamp Center in San Jose. Given that this placement is less than a 1 hour and 15 minute commute from BaseCamp, volunteers working here will have the option of living with us at BaseCamp or living with a host family.

The following information outlines a brief description of life at BaseCamp and also what someone can expect living with a host family in Costa Rica. Once you have completed our application, you can let our staff know if you would prefer to live with a host family. Otherwise, your application will default to having you live with us at BaseCamp.

If you have any questions about the difference between life at BaseCamp or life with a host family in Costa Rica you can always give us a call or send us an email. Our contact details are listed in the footer of every page of the site.

BaseCamp Costa Rica

BaseCamp Costa Rica
BaseCamp Costa Rica Address

Ave 16 St. 39&41
Los Yoses Sur
San Jose, Costa Rica

BaseCamp Costa Rica Contact Details

Tel: 506-8763-9595
Tel: 506-4030-1891
Mobile: 506-8763-9595

Take a Tour of BaseCamp
Accommodation in Costa Rica

All volunteers on our program in Costa Rica start out at our BaseCamp Center. The center is located in the capital city San Jose, and is a fantastic place from which to start your adventure.

Once volunteers have finished their orientation, where they live depends largely on the location of their placement. If their placement is more than a 1 hour 15 minutecommute from BaseCamp, then the only accommodation option may be host families or volunteer lodges in the national parks. However, if the placement is within a 1 hour 15 minute commute, then volunteers can choose whether or not to stay with us at BaseCamp or live with a host family.

BaseCamp Costa Rica is located in the province of San Jose at Los Yoses area. This is a fantastic area closed to the University of Costa Rica, San Pedro Mall, banks, supermarkets, restaurants, embassies and stores. Walking distance to down town and only 30 minutes away from the Juan Santamaria Airport.

BaseCamp has four bedrooms and three wash-rooms. The beds are mainly bunk beds in dormitory style rooms. Pillows, sheets and blankets are provided. There is a large common area where movies, books and games are available to our guests and there is a patio with a nice set up. This is an ideal setting for reading, studying Spanish or just some quiet relaxation.

BaseCamp is where volunteers first come when they arrive in Costa Rica and where they live for at least the duration of their orientation and training. The meal plan at the centre is based on a 14 day rotating schedule of a variety of traditional dishes from around the country. This meal plan allows volunteers to gain comfort and familiarity with both Costa Rican food and meal etiquette before making the transition to living with a host family.

Orientation and language training sessions take place in the BaseCamp Center. Each day of orientation blends some workshops and lessons with a mixture of outings to explore and become familiar with transportation and knowledge regarding the city.

Living With a Host Family in Costa Rica

Living with a host family in Costa Rica is a fantastic way to gain a deep understanding of and appreciation for the people and customs of the country. Each home-stay will provide a bed and three meals per day for our volunteers. The majority of host families offer private rooms with only one or two volunteers living with the family.

In the case of a volunteer lodge or ranger station (which is often the only option for placements within a National Park), volunteers will be living in dormitory type accommodation and meals will be provided in a mess hall or dining area.

Living with a host family can greatly enhance your performance at your placement. For one, it will have a huge influence on the speed with which you gain familiarity with the local language. This, along with your deeper understanding of cultural practices and beliefs that you are likely to gain in this environment, can go a long way to improving or strengthening your relationships with your team mates at work. Furthermore, a significant percentage of our host families are closely affiliated with the organizations with which our volunteers work. As such, even the evening meal or hanging out around the house can become valuable time during which volunteers can share their ideas and continue their support of their host organization.

All of this being said, living with a host family is not for everyone. It is very important for volunteers to honor the house rules in their host family and to be punctual. Also, depending on how remote your placement location, host families can be very rustic. Our staff in country can give you a better idea of what exactly you can expect from a host family in any particular community. However, in general, if these things sound like they might pose a challenge for you, we strongly suggest that you look at a placement within commuting distance from BaseCamp Costa Rica.

How the Program Works

Our program structure and costing is completely flexible which lets our volunteers ensure that they only pay for exactly the degree of support that they want.

Option 1 - Free Services

Some volunteers prefer to coordinate their own accommodation, meals and other support while overseas.

Anyone is welcome to use our volunteer placement search tool to help in finding a placement that is well suited to their interests. Once someone finds a placement that they wish to work with, they are welcome to make all the rest of their arrangmeents on their own.

As well, our team of staff overseas are often able to offer a few helpful pointers for volunteers 'doing it on their own'. Just send us an email with your questions and we will put you in touch with our team abroad. We only ask that you keep your requests fairly general, as this type of advice is exactly how our team earn their living. :)

Option 2 - Placement Support - 250 USD

Other volunteers would like assistance in selecting and confirming their placement, but they plan to manage their own accommodation and other expenses on their own.

These volunteers have the option of choosing to only have our assistance with selecting and confirming their placement. This option also includes ongoing placement support while abroad, so a volunteer would be able to ask our team for help if things at their placement were not working out.

In providing Placement Support, our team works with each volunteer through email, telephone and either Skype or Google Hangouts, to ensure that each volunteer has a clear understanding of their placement options. Our in-country staff will put together a custom list of placement options for each volunteer that they believe are the most appropriate matches with the volunteer's background, skills and interests. Then each volunteer can work with our team both in Canada and abroad to go through each of the options and narrow-down their selection.

Option 3 - Full Program Support

For most volunteers who are volunteering for less than a year, they are looking for an option that includes their accommodation, meals, airport reception, country and program orientation and placement support. This is what our Program Fees are designed for.

We are proud of how over the years we have ensured that our program fees are amoungst the most reasonable of any program in the world while we continue to provide exceptional volunteer support both at home and abroad.

Our Program Fees and listings of what these do and do not include are listed below:

Program Fees

Program Fees - Costa Rica

  Registration Fee
  1 Week
  2 Weeks
  3 Weeks
  4 Weeks
  5 Weeks
  6 Weeks
  7 Weeks
  8 Weeks
  Additional Weeks

Costa Rica wildlife and conservation placements require an additional $7 USD per day fee to cover park fees and accommodation. All program fees are listed in US Dollars.

What is Included
  • Pre-Departure support
  • Placement consulation
  • Airport reception & transfer
  • 2 Day orientation
  • Accommodation (BaseCamp or host family)
  • Breakfast and dinner
  • Emergency & placement support

What is Not Included
    Before Departure
  • International flight
  • Travel medical insurance
  • Visa costs where required
  • Work permits where required
    While Overseas
  • Daily transportation to and from placement
  • Transport to airport on departure
  • Placement fees if requried

Program Dates

Our regularly scheduled program start dates are the first Friday of each month, every month of the year. We strongly recommend beginning your program on one of these dates as this will allow you to go through our orientation alongside other international volunteers.

If you would prefer, our application will also allow you to select a custom start date for your program. Keep in mind that there is an additional fee for a custom start date which ranges from 50 to 75 USD.

Aug 07, 2020 Sep 04, 2020 Oct 02, 2020
Nov 06, 2020 Dec 04, 2020 Jan 01, 2021
Feb 05, 2021 Mar 05, 2021 Apr 02, 2021
May 07, 2021 Jun 04, 2021 Jul 02, 2021
Aug 06, 2021 Sep 03, 2021 Oct 01, 2021
Nov 05, 2021 Dec 03, 2021 Jan 07, 2022
Feb 04, 2022 Mar 04, 2022 Apr 01, 2022
May 06, 2022 Jun 03, 2022 Jul 01, 2022


These dates are the day that volunteers should plan to arrive on the ground in country. We can accommodate arrivals in-country at any time day or night on these dates.

Give us a Call
Canada / USA 866-646-4693 (toll free)
UK 866-646-4693 (toll free)
Australia 866-646-4693 (toll free)
International 613-353-3000
Send us a Message