The kids are alright: The role of youth volunteers at Interior Health

1149

At facilities throughout Interior Health, young volunteers provide services to enhance the comfort of patients and residents. In Kelowna, for example, about 100 young volunteers, or Candy Stripers and Cadets, serve four residential sites (Brookhaven, Cottonwoods, David Lloyd Jones, and Three Links Manor) and Kelowna General Hospital also has about 30 young volunteers registered.

“Some of the young volunteers go to two different sites. One example is Montana Moore. She has been volunteering since September 2010 and in the last two years has volunteered at Brookhaven and at KGH in the Perking Lot. She is one of the young volunteers to receive an award recently for giving 500 hours,” says Residential Care Volunteer Coordinator Dolorese Rudnicki. “We are very fortunate to have them.”

MORE: USING EVIDENCE TO EXAMINE THE SAFETY OF GARDASIL

“The youth of today show a genuine concern for the well-being of other people. They care about making a positive difference and contributing in any way that they can,” says KGH Volunteer Services Coordinator Kevin Andrews. “They come here to learn and to grow, not only with Interior Health but with the community that they are a part of.”

For students planning careers in healthcare, volunteering provides an opportunity to experience hospital and residential care settings and to develop a clearer understanding of the demands, responsibilities, and benefits of such a career choice.

Seventeen-year-old Shaun Taylor plans to go into medicine upon graduation. A recent volunteer, he has already contributed 50 hours at Cottonwoods. “It’s good. It definitely gives you a new perspective,” he says about working with residents.

Kara Centre/Adolescent Psychiatric Unit Manager Colleen McEwan agrees. Her daughter Kenna, 15, has volunteered at Cottonwoods for two years. “This has been a great experience for her,” says Colleen. “She is still deciding what type of job she wants to pursue in the future and volunteering gives her an opportunity to work with people and learn about what to expect in a job. She has definitely had her eyes opened to what it means to work with people with dementia and realizes the value of giving to the community.”

Joanna Kaczmarek, Volunteer Coordinator at Cottonwoods and Three Links Manor, says students represent a significant amount of volunteer hours and their bright smiles and helping hands are invaluable.

Young volunteers provide the “little things” that make a difference to the residents’ care and comfort. They deliver fresh water, spend time visiting, going for walks, or playing games until it is time to assist with supper. Every effort is made to ensure supper time is a special social time for both residents and volunteers.

MORE: THE FUTURE OF HEALTHCARE AND THE ROLE OF MEDTECH

“The students’ energy is appreciated by residents, who often have limited contact with the younger generation,” she says. “Students often provide positive social interaction which is an integral part of mental well-being in our residents.”

In KGH, many positions involve working at information desks, delivering flowers, way-finding, and escorting patients and visitors to various locations in the hospital. Volunteers also work in auxiliary/foundation fundraising venues such as the Perking Lot, the Royal Bistro, and the Mercantile. In addition, they take the patient library cart around to patients offering donated free reading material.

At RIH, Youth Volunteers, students from grades 10 to 12, come in each week.

“They are eager to help out with those small tasks that can mean so much to our patients, visitors, and staff. While they are helping out, they are gaining valuable insight and experience towards their future goals,” says Volunteer Coordinator Gayle Weiss.

“Youth Volunteers commit to a weekly shift which teaches responsibility and accountability; skills that will take them far in their chosen field. Our Youth Volunteers are active in all areas of the hospital – Emergency, ICU, Labour & Delivery, Pharmacy, Medical and Surgical floors, as well as the Information Desk and Mobile Cart.”

MORE: CARDIAC VOLUNTEERS WORK AND WALK WITH HEART

“Students want to give and contribute to an area they feel passionate about. This is especially true for young volunteers in health care. By volunteering in this way, students have an opportunity to gain experience and build confidence in what may be their career choice in life,” says Julie Melia, Community Partnership Facilitator with School District No. 23 Career Life Programs.

“There is a sense of commitment and achievement towards a goal and they can feel proud they are making a difference in the life of someone else and in their community.”

Youth Volunteers, also called Candy Stripers and Cadets, are between 13 and 18 years old and are asked to volunteer one day each week.