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Summer volunteer program offers practical health care experiences





If you walked through the halls of St. Anthony’s Medical Center this summer, you may have noticed a flurry of teens and young adults working around the hospital. Part of a Summer Volunteer Program (SVP), approximately 55 students and young adults, age 14 and older, volunteered a minimum of four hours per week in a designated department.

Mary Jo Wich, the program’s volunteer coordinator, is proud of the unique opportunity that has gained popularity over time.

“We are strictly word-of-mouth. We do not advertise or work directly with any schools or districts,” she explained. “With as many as 100 volunteers, the success of the program speaks for itself.”

For high school students who are thinking of working in the medical field, the program gives them an inside look at a hospital setting in a controlled environment. The hospital staff  are polled as to whether they would like volunteers for their department and asked to provide job descriptions with an outline of duties.

Students then are matched to opportunities by areas of interest that include nursing units, patient transport, laboratories, acute and orthopedic rehab, just to name a few.

“This is a great way to see different health profession options available to them. Plus, today’s kids know the importance of volunteering in their community. It looks good on a resume or college application and gives them experience,” Wich said.

She also said that in the age of social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, learning about strict confidentially is an important focus during orientation and while participating in the SVP.

“It is commonplace to read about employees who lose their jobs because of an inappropriate status or tweet. We hope that they will learn acceptable uses of social media while in this professional setting,” Wich said.

Parkway South senior Rachel Lee volunteered in the Endoscopy Center, which offers diagnostics and treatment for gastrointestinal needs. She worked in the recovery unit prepping beds for patients, stocking supplies and transporting patients to their cars following discharge.

“Transport was my favorite job because it is an opportunity to really interact with the patients. Everyone has a story. They talk about themselves and they often ask about me, too,” said Lee.

During the school year, Lee is actively involved as president of South’s Medical Science Club. She started the group to support her medical science interest and it has grown to approximately 30 members. Under the staff supervision of Todd Yeager, a science teacher at South, the group meets twice monthly.

“Rachel has been an outstanding student leader,” Yeager said. “She leads the Medical Science Club with good decisions and perseverance. She oversees many activities such as shoring up guest speakers, and providing media sites for communication of the club members. Without her dedication, the club would not run.”

During the school year Lee also is involved in Key Club, which she sees as an extension of her volunteer efforts. Key Club is an international high school organization, whose mission is to perform acts of service in local communities. For Lee that specifically included making blankets for hospitals.

Marquette sophomore Emil Mathai, 15, also is a member of the Key Club and a Summer Volunteer Program participant. As is true for many of the volunteers, Mathai completed his second year working in the hospital this summer. With both his parents employed by St. Anthony’s, it seemed to be a natural fit. But make no mistake, his second time around is no less challenging.

Last summer Mathai worked in acute rehabilitation, which includes care for traumatic injury, disease management and post-surgery care. For that experience, he was assigned a partner. However, this year, in same-day surgery, he has worked more independently – cleaning and preparing stretchers, stocking cabinets and assisting patients with requests. He said he has seen the benefits of his volunteer efforts.

“I am engaging with the patients. By talking with adults, whether my superiors or patients, it gives me confidence and better social skills,” he said.“I really like the people here and how people help me out. They really guide me in the process.”

Lee said she, too, has had an equally positive experience.

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