Youth Volunteer Program Grows Future Healthcare Professionals
Program Helps Patients, Students, and Hospital Staff
Christy Carrick, RN (r) who was a youth volunteer, shows youth volunteer Emma Lagorio, 16, how to do a blood pressure.
Christy Carrick fell in love with nursing at age 14. As a youth volunteer at Josephine Memorial Hospital in the old tower building in Grants Pass, Oregon, she was paired with a hands-on nursing mentor who showed her how to care for patients in their most vulnerable moments. “Everything she did, I got to see,” Christy recalls. “I was very attracted to the caring for people.”
Today, Christy lives her dream as a clinical program coordinator at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center, also in Grants Pass. She says the hospital’s Youth Volunteer program played a crucial role in influencing her career path from humble beginnings to dedicated registered nurse. And she’s not alone.
More than 600 students have been through the program since its launch in 1996. Of those, 150 are now working as healthcare professionals throughout Asante Health System, while others have pursued careers with Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland and other facilities.
“It’s so rewarding to see these kids blossom,” says Linda Lamoreau, Volunteer Program coordinator and founder. “When they come into the Youth Volunteer program, from the day they step into my office for the interview, they are learning. I’ve watched timid kids grow and mature through adult responsibility and interaction.”
Applicants must be between 14 and 18 years old with a 3.0 GPA and two letters of recommendation. Each volunteer is asked to commit to a minimum of two hours per week for six months.
Linda sits down with each student to go over the hospital policies, procedures, and values. “This is a professional program, so we expect professional conduct for the sake of our patients and staff,” she explains.
In return for their commitment, students get the chance of a lifetime—to experience a medical career before they invest in costly training or medical school. “The program will help them with the decisions they need to make in their life path,” Christy says. “Whether you realize you love healthcare or end up discovering no, that’s not for me—there’s so much benefit in finding that out when you’re in high school, before you finish college or hit the workforce.”
Youth volunteers assist in nursing, pre-surgery care, X-ray, the Emergency department, birthing unit, rehabilitation, ED Express (non-trauma urgent care), and transport services. Each student is paired with a mentor, usually a certified nursing assistant (CNA) or other staff member who is particularly involved in hands-on patient care and guides the volunteer through each step of the job.
“These kids are experiencing the real thing,” Linda says. “They are so awesome. They help our staff immensely. Our hospital staff appreciates and respects the students, and the students respect the staff.”
In fact, youth volunteers have become so integral to the hospital’s daily work, students are often called on in times of need. Linda recalls one situation recently in which the birthing unit needed an extra hand monitoring a newborn. They called their student volunteer on her day off, and she gladly arrived within the hour. “They trusted her that much,” Linda says. “I think that says a lot about the quality of our volunteers.”
For students planning to pursue a medical career, volunteering offers some perks. The hospital’s senior auxiliary awards two $1,000 scholarships each June to any past or present youth volunteer who has completed at least 200 hours in the program. And, when it comes time to apply for jobs after college or technical training, youth volunteers get noticed. “The recruiter and the manager work together to make hiring decisions, and managers will remember if an applicant was once a great volunteer,” Linda says. About one quarter of the students who come through the youth volunteer program end up working for Asante after their schooling.
“This program makes a difference,” Linda says. “It teaches life lessons and emphasizes the importance of compassion, community, and sacrifice.”
Christy agrees. “Had I not been part of the program, I don’t think I would’ve figured out my passion for nursing as quickly,” she says.