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Teens bring energy to hospital

High school students volunteer at Newhall Memorial

Posted: April 28, 2009 9:25 p.m.
Updated: April 29, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Kathryn Rieck volunteers in the hospital pharmacy, where she sorts medications and transports prescriptions to nurses' stations.

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Volunteering is nothing new to Hart High School junior Kathryn Rieck. In the past, she's helped at homeless shelters and built homes for the poor in Mexico. Now Rieck is serving closer to home by assisting staff and patients at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital.

"Patients here are so happy when you talk to them. It's really nice to see their reaction," Rieck said. "Volunteering is important, it builds good character. You get to meet people and see the world more than what most normal high school kids experience."

Newhall Memorial honored its teen and adult volunteers during last week's Healthcare Volunteer Week, an annual celebration of volunteerism that is celebrated nationally and promotes long-term volunteering.

"Our teens bring a special energy to the volunteer program. Patients warm up to their friendly smiles and our staff enjoy the opportunity to mentor them," said Maria Strmsek, DVS, CAVS, director of volunteer services at Newhall Memorial. "Some of our teen volunteers are in the program because they're interested in pursuing a medical career, so the pharmacy and other clinical staff try to show them what working in a hospital would be like for their future careers."

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, 16-to 19-year olds comprised the only age group to see a significant rise in volunteerism in 2008, increasing by 1.4 percent from the year before. Overall, approximately 61.8 million people, or 26.4 percent of the population, volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2007 and September 2008.

Rieck volunteers in the hospital's Medical-Surgical Unit 3, where she assists nurses with making copies and bringing patients water or magazines. She also volunteers in the hospital pharmacy, sorting medications and transporting prescriptions to nurse's stations.
She said she likes interacting with patients.

"They're so grateful that you're there to care for them, not just because it's your job, but because you want to be," Rieck said.

Natalie Espinoza became involved with the program to see how things work in a hospital. The Hart High School junior spends her volunteer time assisting the nurses in Henry Mayo's Women's Services Unit.

The experience has solidified Espinoza's desire for a career in the medical field. She had once considered becoming a pediatrician, now she wants to focus on neonatology.

"Babies are so delicate and fragile, they really depend on adults to be there for them," Espinoza said. "Being in this atmosphere and working with the nurses has really had an impact on me."

Prior to coming to Henry Mayo, Espinoza had never volunteered. "I think it's really important, I want to continue volunteering. It's a chance to show you care about other people. It's not about money, it comes from the heart," she said.

A ninth-grade student, Samuel Lee, of Valencia, has been volunteering at Newhall Memorial for six months. He wants to be a doctor and is learning the ins and outs of hospital life from the ground floor up.

Lee is a volunteer in Central Supplies, where he sorts and delivers medical supplies to different departments throughout the hospital. He said he enjoys volunteering and thinks it's a great way to meet new people, get community service hours and build character.

"It helps me understand what a patient is going through. I've become a more compassionate and better person," Lee said.
For more information on the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital volunteer program, call (661) 253-8051 or visit Volunteer guidelines can also be found on the Henry Mayo Web site.


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