A newly knitted baby hat needs a small owner at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center.
It’s 15-year-old Savannah Lindaman’s job it distribute it to one of the many babies born Mondays at the hospital. When that’s done, Lindaman helps put together new parent kits, grabs water from the stock room for a thirsty mom and lends a hand wherever needed on the labor and delivery floor.
“We get to help all of the moms with whatever they need. We hand out hats to the babies. We get to hold the babies in the nursery when they need to be rocked,” she said.
The Campo Verde High School junior is one of 170 teens who are spending their summer as part of the Dignity Health Summer “Volunteen” Program at both Mercy Gilbert Medical Center and Chandler Regional Medical Center. It started in 2008 and offers teens a chance volunteer and get exposed to the various careers at the hospital. That’s one aspect that really appealed to the Gilbert student.
“I didn’t realize how many people work up there,” Lindaman said of the labor and delivery floor. “I just thought it was doctors and nurses, but there are so many people up there.” Lindaman especially liked hearing about the job of a neurosurgeon and she’s looking forward to hearing from the emergency room doctor.
“Ever since I was little, watching those doctor shows, I said, ‘That’s what I want to do. It’s a dream of mine. I want to be a pediatrician,” she said.
The program is competitive. Nearly 300 students applied this summer. They must submit an application, including essays, and then, if selected, go through an interview process. But many return year after year.
Recent Basha High School graduate Brandon Ngo landed the volunteer “shift supervisor” position this year after spending the previous two years in the shoes of his fellow “volunteens.”
“I really like the program. And even though I can’t put it on my resume because I’m already set to go to college, I just wanted to give back to the volunteer program that’s given me so much the last two years,” Ngo said.
Ngo worked in the nutrition department his first year and worked in post anesthesia department last year. The Chandler resident will attend Duke University in the fall with plans to study medicine in the future and an eye on a possible career as an anesthesiologist.
“I learned … that it doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor or a nurse. The entire hospital works together. It’s all connected,” he said.
Students are required to attend at least three classes during the summer and volunteer a minimum of 40 hours. They typically work one 4-hour shift each week, Ngo said.
“The most important thing I gained is making connections with people,” Ngo said. “It helped me to break out of my shell and meet new people and of course, make sure they’re doing well in the hospital and know where to go.”
While a large number of students come from Chandler and Gilbert, there are volunteers from other East Valley cities. Students in the first year of volunteering are often assigned more “clerical” tasks, said Christy Naughton, a communication specialist at the hospital. Experienced volunteers earn a more “clinical” focused-position.
“It’s encouragement for them to come back,” she said.
Information about next year’s program, open to teens 14 to 18 by June 1, will be available in March.
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