Charitable clinics are independent community-based or faith-based organizations that provide free or low-cost health care to low-income, individuals within their community. They are able to do this through the use of licensed medical professionals and partnerships with health care organizations. There are approximately 1,200 charitable clinics in 50 states providing access to basic healthcare services for more than 4 million citizens annually. These organizations provide a unique opportunity for volunteerism by both health care professionals and non health care professionals.
Charitable clinics vary in terms of their size, scope of services, target population, and vision. Some free clinics are staffed entirely by volunteers and others have paid staff who support or supplement their volunteers. Regardless, volunteers play a large role in the services provided at the free clinic.
There are many reasons why a volunteer chooses to give back to their community by practicing in a free clinic. Many report feeling called by a greater power to give back to their fellow man. Others enjoy the collegial connections and support they get by interacting with other health professionals. Some do it to re-engage in or further develop their professional skills. Almost all will report that volunteering in a free clinic allows them to practice medicine as they were trained: without the hassles of insurance companies and with the true needs of their patients at the heart of their work. Overall, volunteers get as much from the volunteer experience as they give and they come together for a common cause: provide quality health care to their communities neediest and most appreciative members.