Toolkit for New Chapters

Founded at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC), CSSC is now a national organization and is open to all who wish to join and agree to abide by the CSSC guiding principles.

To help other institutions quickly and efficiently launch their own CSSC chapters, CUIMC has developed a CSSC Toolkit. The Toolkit provides a recommended framework and offers suggestions and guidance for streamlining the implementation process.


The CSSC Mission

To support health systems and their patients, workforce, and communities facing the COVID-19 pandemic through interprofessional student service-learning projects.

Guiding Principles

Chapters of CSSC agree to abide by the following guiding principles:

  • Needs are identified by the health care system and brought to the local CSSC Oversight Committee (see below) to develop teams designed to address the need.
  • The CSSC follows a service-learning model in which students learn, reflect, and grow in their professional and personal identities while serving their communities.
  • When possible and appropriate, the collaboration is interprofessional from the outset to promote students learning with, from, and about each other through their service.
  • Every point of leadership requires a strong connection between students and faculty, so students can meet the needs of the health care system and communities with appropriate oversight and supervision.
  • Opportunities for students to volunteer prioritize options that facilitate social distancing. This may change as local circumstances evolve.


We recommend each chapter form the following groups to facilitate the work of CSSC:

  • Oversight Committee: Faculty Chair(s) and Student Chair(s) oversee the volunteer projects, recruitment, and leadership structure. They work with the health care system to identify needs and deploy teams to address them. An Administrative Chair facilitates the administrative connections needed to efficiently support the needs of each project.
  • Project Leaders: Each project has Faculty Leader(s) and Student Leader(s) who directly manage the project under the supervision of the Oversight Committee. The Project Leaders train and deploy volunteers and adapt the project as the needs of the health system change.
  • Coordinators: Student Coordinator(s) assist the Project Leaders with project organization, scheduling if applicable, and volunteer communication.
  • Email: A centralized email account can assist in triaging of project requests. Use an account in the format cssc@[yourschool.domain].edu
  • Social Media: Abide by institutional regulations and confidentiality guidelines. Use a Twitter handle in this format @[yourschool]CSSC and follow @CSSCNational

Service Projects

Projects will be unique to each health system and will change with the local environment. Some early projects that may be common across settings include:

  • COVID-19 Community Hotline provides staffing support for a community informational line about COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 Research works with principal investigators who are engaged in time-sensitive COVID-related projects.
  • Information Services produces high-quality, summarized, and digestible resources on the COVID-19 pandemic and management for patients, families, faculty, and students and supports the technological and publishing needs of other service projects.
    • Teams within the Information Services project include Patient Education and Design, Language Translation, Literature Assessment and Summary, Web Design, and Outreach
  • Medical Education works to enhance the virtual curriculum to ensure high-quality ongoing curricular experiences for preclinical medical students.
  • Mental Health and Well Being supports the well-being of students, faculty, staff, and community members through projects such as:
    • Hero Meals, a service that supports local restaurants and businesses by fundraising to employ a lean staff to provide nutritious, comforting fare to hospital staff working the front lines.
    • Virtual Community-Building projects, such as yoga and meditation.
  • Overflow Staffing and Support works with relevant stakeholders to prepare students for possible clinical and nonclinical back-up staffing roles in the pandemic.
  • Patient Population Outreach Projects gives providers with high-risk populations, via CSSC students, the opportunity to communicate anticipatory guidance about COVID-19 and provide guidance for when to seek care.
  • PPE Task Force organizes procurement, donation, and manufacturing of personal protective equipment from interested parties in the community.
  • Provider Childcare Task Force connects health care professionals with existing childcare services (not students) and seeks to grow the network of services.
  • Telemedicine COVID-19 Follow-Up engages in remote monitoring of COVID-positive patients after discharge. This project uses students with clinical training and licensed supervision.
  • Telemedicine Patient Assist works with outpatient clinics to rapidly onboard patients onto institutional telehealth platforms, allowing for more efficient clinic flow and reduction in in-person encounters.
  • Workforce Health and Safety provides staffing support for the hospital service tasked with receiving calls and following potential cases of COVID-19 among staff and providers.


Service-learning projects include all of the following:

  • Service to the community in activities that respond to community-identified concerns.
  • Student preparation to better understand context of service and develop needed knowledge and skills.
  • Student reflection on the relationships among their participation in the activity, their medical school curriculum, and their roles as citizens and medical professionals.

Academic Credit

Some schools may award academic credit to students participating in CSSC projects. If credit is to be awarded, we recommend:

  • Designating course directors (may be from among the Faculty Chairs).
  • Requiring a minimum of 15 hours per week of service.
  • Requiring faculty-precepted reflection sessions (virtual; weekly or biweekly) for:
    • Debriefing activities
    • Sharing observations about navigating ethical challenges or dilemmas
    • Sharing observations about interprofessional collaboration
  • Obtaining formal approval from the school’s committee on instruction.

Starting a CSSC Chapter

We recommend interested institutions complete the following steps:

  1. Ensure the Guiding Principles conform with your vision.
  2. Form an Oversight Committee of highly organized, highly motivated, and responsive faculty and senior students with a history of leading and engagement in service-learning.
  3. Develop a mission statement that identifies the purpose of the CSSC chapter within the context of supporting the health care system, engaging in service-learning, and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. Obtain explicit approval to proceed with the project from institutional leaders.
  5. Establish partnerships with leadership at multiple schools across the institution, if applicable, to facilitate interprofessional collaboration.
  6. Identify stakeholders within the health care system who can identify areas of need.
  7. Develop potential projects that can address identified areas of need.
  8. Recruit highly organized students and faculty, perhaps with expertise in the area of interest, who can serve as Project Leaders.
  9. Work with Project Leaders to evaluate the steps necessary to address the need, including additional stakeholders and any requirements or skills necessary to volunteer.
  10. Recruit students interested in volunteering to the project that best aligns their skills and interests.
  11. Assist projects by facilitating connections among students, faculty, and administrators with skills and expertise in the area of need.
  12. Develop feedback systems for continual evaluation and oversight of the project.
  13. Engage in weekly, interdisciplinary, and inter-project reflections on the volunteer experience and further formation of professional identity according to the service-learning principles above.
  14. Reach out to CSSC National ( with your chapter location and leadership contact information to let us know about your chapter so we can add you to the chapter directory for the purposes of outreach and coordinating national efforts. Have your chapter follow @CSSCNational on twitter!

Tools that may be useful:

  • Survey tools, such as Qualtrics or SurveyMonkey for volunteer signups
  • A CSSC email address, such as cssc@[yourschool.domain].edu
  • An organizational system for communication, document hosting, and schedule management, such as Microsoft Teams
  • A platform for engaging in reflections, such as Canvas or Blackboard

For more information, contact us at and follow us on Twitter @ColumbiaCSSC and @CSSCNational

ToolKit Documentation for Forming New CSSC Chapters

Download Guidelines