The NP & PA's Guide to Volunteering at Music Festivals

If you’re a nurse practitioner or physician assistant who enjoys attending concerts and music festivals, then signing up as an event healthcare provider may be just the opportunity you’re looking for. Not only is it a great way to get an all-access pass for a festival you’ve been dying to go to, but it’s a unique way to practice your clinical skills in a very cool, nontraditional environment. 

Festival healthcare providers also play a very critical role at the event, providing compassionate care for concert-goers turned patients. If you’re a NP or PA looking to combine your love for music and medicine, or are just looking for a way to lend your expertise to a diverse patient population, here’s what you need to know about volunteering at a music festival.  

How is medical care organized at the event?

Rather than handle the logistics themselves, festival producers often contract a medical services company to oversee healthcare at the event and serve as an alternative to ambulance action for medical emergencies, substance abuse and mental health crises that happen during the festival. Generally, the contracted company will provide its own staff of qualified health professionals as well as come equipped its own medical supplies; however, the company will often ask the festival to provide a tent or a designated building where the providers can set up an on-site infirmary to treat patients. Some medical services companies also patrol the audience on golf carts to provide onsite care to attendees in need of medical attention, especially at larger festivals.

Alternatively, event producers may hire the area’s local EMS service to be the primary provider of care. The local EMS service may then hire its own additional staff of providers for the event or the festival may contract a medical service team to provide added support for the local EMS.

How can I get involved?

If you’re looking to lend your clinical skills at a specific music festival, you can start by contacting the hiring or volunteering department for the event and inquire about their medical services. Depending on what information they provide, you can then reach out to the appropriate party to see about joining their team as an NP/PA for the event. Bear in mind that if a medical services company is providing care at the event, you may have to submit an application which could take a couple of weeks to be processed. Some companies also require its providers to complete an orientation on event healthcare before they can begin working at festivals, regardless of their level of experience; so if you don’t leave ample time for the application process to be complete before the date of the event, you may not be brought on in time.

If you’re not picky about the festivals you work and just want to enjoy some tunes while lending a helping hand, you can apply directly with one of the many medical service teams across the country. Many provide care nationwide and allow providers to select which events they want to work depending on their availability.

What qualifications do I need?

Given the nature of the cases seen at the event, providers with emergency medicine, crisis management, and counseling, as well as experience with substance abuse are highly sought after. Although each medical service company has its own set of preferred qualifications, perhaps the most common quality each looks for when hand selecting its team of providers is that you’re able to provide non-judgemental and discrete care to the patients due to the sensitive nature of the services you’d be providing.

What type of patients will I treat?

The type of patients you treat depends greatly upon the audience in attendance as well as environmental factors. At festivals located in the desert such as Coachella and EDC, many of the concert-goers are battling the wind and dust on little to no sleep, combined with alcohol and other substances. In these environments, you’ll likely see patients with respiratory issues, dehydration, and other heat-related ailments. There’s also the potential that you might treat patients who are intoxicated or experiencing symptoms of drug overdose including unconsciousness, disorientation, seizures, etc.

Although these are extreme scenarios and may not happen during your shift, the potential for such is why it’s so important for medical companies to staff its events with providers who can treat patients discreetly without biases, and who feel comfortable handling a range of needs. The medical team needs to be approachable by attendees in need of care and make the patients feel comfortable seeking help.

For nurse practitioners and physician assistants, it’s important to remember that even though you’re not in a traditional healthcare setting, you still work within your scope of practice.

Can I be compensated?

Compensation depends on the medical service company you’re working with. Some will bring in providers as unpaid volunteers but most do compensate its more experienced healthcare professionals. In addition to financial compensation, some festivals give free tickets to the medical team so they can enjoy the event on a day they’re not working.

Providing medical care at a music festival is a great way to enjoy an event you might not otherwise get to attend while also making a difference in patients’ lives. Remember, as fun as it is to enjoy the scene, the patients are your first priority.