Teens, hospital, patients benefit from volunteer program

| March 4, 2020 | 0 Comments

TEEN VOLUNTEERS, left to right, Patricia Valdezco, Arielle Zaytsev, Vanessa Herrera, Angela Davidian.

Hundreds of teenagers choose to drive, each week, to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Grove. As part of the hospital’s Teen Volunteer Program, these teenagers don blue-and-white striped jackets and step into the bustling hospital campus to assist with clerical and clinical tasks.

With over 2,000 total volunteers helping hospital staff, teen volunteers make up about 330 volunteers during the academic year. Over the summer, the program accommodates anywhere from 500 to 800 teen volunteers.

The program draws from high schoolers, 14 to 18. During the academic year, teen volunteers commit to a minimum of two-hour weekly shifts, which turns into three-hour weekly shifts in the summer.

Volunteers learn

Director of Volunteer Services Casey McGuire, who oversees the teen volunteer program and has worked at the Volunteer Department for the past 10 years, said including teenagers within the working medical environment benefits both the hospital and the teenagers.

“It’s giving the teens an opportunity to learn about accountability and responsibility, and how to interact with and communicate with people, many of whom are not only substantially older than the teens are, but also are people who are not feeling well or are unable to always interact with the teens, in ways that other members of society, who are hale and hearty and ambulatory, can,” McGuire said. “I think of this as a tremendous opportunity to help provide opportunities to teens, but also help shape those teens and help them to grow up into being adults.”

CEDARS teen volunteer Aaron Harouni. Photos by Bill Pollard

Volunteer Coordinator Mayra Mejia is the first point of contact for teen volunteers. She worked at Cedars-Sinai as a teen herself through the Youth Employment and Development (YED) program, which is a separate program offered in partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District and Regional Occupational Program, and has been working at the hospital ever since.

“[They] are young and want to determine whether healthcare is a good career path for them,” Mejia said. “It’s exciting. They keep me going. It makes me happy to see other people happy and helping other people.”

Teen volunteers work in departments across the hospital, including the nursing office, admissions, security, Women’s Guild Simulation Center, Division of General Internal Medicine, surgery and pre-operative units and in mostly clerical occupations under administrative supervisors.

Patient interaction

For volunteers who prefer more patient interaction, non-intensive care units offer volunteers the chance to enter patient rooms and interact with nurses and clinical employees. They answer patient phone calls, deliver flowers, offer amenities, file paperwork, retrieve and clear meal trays, run errands for staff and hold conversations with patients.

“Teens represent an inspiration to patients,” McGuire said. “Teens are young. They’re vibrant. They’re helpful. And to be a patient or a visitor in a patient’s room, and to see a young person come in, who is here out of the goodness of their heart, to help and to interact with them, gives them hope. Not only hope for themselves, but hope for the world and what the world is going to be 10 years from now or 20 years from now.”

Program expanding

The program has been expanding as more departments and teenagers express interest in participating in it. The hospital, too, has been increasing in size, so more teenagers have been needed to meet growing numbers of patients and employees.

“If we have the capacity in-house and we have the desire in the community, well, that’s our mission,” McGuire said. “Our mission is to provide volunteers to the medical center and to provide volunteers with the opportunity to volunteer.”

Shift hours can contribute toward school students’ community service requirements.

“I want every teen to have the best quality experience,” Mejia said.

“It’s not about the quantity. I want them to have a great time here, so my goal is for them to give, and at the same time take home, that great accomplishment.” Visit cedars-sinai.org/volunteer-services/high-school-students.html.

By Talia Abrahamson

Talia Abrahamson is a senior at Marlborough School and a Cedars-Sinai teen volunteer.

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Category: People

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