355 East Erie
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

Give Now


Thank you for your interest in volunteering with Shirley Ryan AbilityLab! At this time, we are not accepting new volunteer applications. We value your commitment to making a difference and encourage you to check back in September 2023. Thank you for your understanding!

How Do Volunteers Make A Difference?


Volunteers are central to how patients and families feel about their care at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. We cherish our volunteers because they add diversity, dimension and vibrancy to how we — and you — express compassion.

There is no other research hospital in the world that will be practicing “translational” medicine, i.e., research will be directly applied (or “translated”) during therapy, with doctors and researchers working in the same space, real time, 24/7, with patients. Our stunning building is architecturally designed to create this seamless integration.

As integral members of our healthcare team, the contributions of volunteers are far-reaching:

  • Administrative support — Providing office support services to departments.
  • Patient services — Visiting adult and pediatric patients, mail/flyer delivery, patient transport.
  • Therapy sessions — Working with staff and patients in physical and occupational therapy sessions.
  • Therapeutic recreation — Reinforcing social and therapeutic processes by helping patients participate in therapeutic activities.
  • Adaptive Sports and Fitness Program  — Providing support to athletes and coordinators during practices and competitions.


Requirements for Volunteering

  • Online/onsite Orientation Session
  • Possible Phone Interview
  • 100 Hour Commitment with Consistent Weekly Shifts 
  • Medical Requirements, including MMR, Varicella, TB Testing, COVID and Flu Vaccination (Seasonal)
  • Criminal Background Check (18 years and older)

Frequently Asked Questions


What is the volunteer time commitment?

We ask for a 100-hour commitment. Most volunteer areas require a 3 hour shift each week. - One consistent weekly shift - AM Shift: 9:00-12 or PM Shift: 1:00-4 - Cancel shifts you can't attend in VSys - You must attend 3 out of 4 assigned shifts per month. Most volunteer opportunities are during the week, more limited for evenings and weekends.

What is the minimum age to volunteer?

We welcome all ages over the minimum age of 15.

What is the application process?

To begin, all prospective volunteers must submit an online application. Once the initial application is approved, instructions will be emailed explaining how to submit proof of medical documentation. Once medical requirements are provided, a background check is competed for those 18+. Attendance at an onsite orientation session to learn about the volunteer program is required. Onsite orientation is contingent on completing the medical requirements, background check and additional online onboarding steps. You will receive information on how to access Vsys, our volunteer management portal which is used to track schedules and hours. Many steps of this process are self-directed. Most volunteers are able to begin service within a month.

What is the volunteer dress code?

A yellow volunteer shirt is provided at no cost. Please wear business casual pants and closed toe shoes. No Jeans/Shorts/Legging. Masking is required at all times onsite.

May I shadow a doctor, therapist, or researcher?

The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab does not offer shadowing opportunities at this time.

What can I expect at the Onsite Orientation Session?

Orientations are approximately 30 minutes in length which include the following topics: - Tour of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab - Patient Interactions in a hospital setting - HIPAA regulations and confidentiality - Infection control - and Volunteer Services policies.

Do you have any annual requirements?

The flu vaccine is required of all volunteers each year between the months of Oct-March. There is also annual mandatory TB education that is required. There may be other requirements depending on place of service.

What does a typical day look like?

Therapies typically occur between 8:00am and 5:00pm, the busiest times are 9am-4pm - Patients will typically receive 3 hours of therapy per day, 5 out of 7 days per week. Both individual and group therapies are included. - This includes OT, PT & SLP and may also include technology center. Additional services may be provided (as warranted) and will be on the schedule including admin support, patient transport, spiritual care, therapeutic recreation, art/music and LIFE center workshops.

How do I complete the TB test requirement?

TB tests can be completed with your medical provider. If completing a PPD skin test- a TWO STEP skin reading is required (this includes TWO placements and TWO readings). QuantiFERON (blood draw) TB test is also accepted. We do offer QuantiFERON TB test onsite at no cost to the volunteer.

Do you offer volunteer opportunities for college students looking to satisfy program hour requirements?

Yes, many college students volunteer at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in order to gain hours and experience in order to satisfy program requirements. All students must complete the onboarding process listed above. Please note, while we make every effort to accommodate requests, assignments to specific focus areas such as PT/OT/in-patient therapies are not guaranteed due to high demand.

Is it mandatory to provide the requested medical documentation?

Yes, due to the nature of patients that Shirley Ryan AbilityLab serves, this is a mandatory requirement. To become an active volunteer, all individuals must provide proof of vaccination or titer (immunity) for MMR and Varicella. Additionally, you must show proof of Covid Vaccination, as well as negative TB test. During the months of October-March, an up to date influenza vaccine is required. Volunteers may be removed from the schedule at any point and without notice if found to be non-compliant with these requirements.

I have a question not addressed here. Who can I contact?

If you have additional questions, please contact Volunteer Services at 312-238-6027 or