“So you wanna be a nurse, huh?”
If someone had asked me this in college, I would have burst into laughter. Me? A nurse? I could hardly pluck my mother’s eyebrows for her without getting a little squeamish; why would I ever pursue a health care career?
As a Children’s volunteer, I got to spend time in the hospital, but didn’t need to do anything that made me squeamish. Making someone feel better when they are in the hospital goes far beyond caring for their medical needs. As a volunteer, you focus on the emotional needs of patients and their families. Volunteering involved me driving 45 minutes from my house, sometimes getting stuck in traffic, and sweating without any air conditioning in my car…but all of that faded the moment my red vest went on.
As a volunteer, you meet children who will stay in your heart forever because of the connections that you make with them. I remember one young boy who wanted to play Wii: luckily, I have brothers and am skilled in the art of video games! I played for him while he pointed out the football plays that I should have made. I don’t know a thing about football, but we smiled and laughed anyway. That day, he was really sad to see me go, and it was difficult to end my shift! Another child I won’t forget was in no mood to play. She only wanted to be held and rocked, and made it very clear that she was not happy to see the nurses when they needed to come in to check her blood sugar. They finished their tests quickly, and I was able to come back and continue spending time with her: just rocking and holding, rocking and holding. As a volunteer, be prepared to just be a teddy bear sometimes!
It can be difficult for a child when a younger sibling is getting so much attention because they are sick. I will never forget these two sisters that I spent time with: they had more energy than an entire soccer team confined in their two tiny bodies. We played “house” in the playroom, where I did “homework” and the girls (“Mom” and “Auntie”) told me what to do! I showed them the Japanese alphabet that I learned to write in college. They were so intrigued, and in return, they started writing their own alphabet’s characters. It was then my turn to be the curious one!
Volunteers help out parents, too. I will never forget a mother who was nervous about leaving her child with me because of his special needs. I mentioned to her not to worry, I have a lot of experience with kids with special needs (most of this experience coming from my brother who has a similar disability). Her eyes lit up, and I was suddenly just the listener she was craving. She felt so comfortable with me that I spent my entire shift with them. Don’t forget to be a caring listener; it’s one of the best types of medicine out there.
So here I am, weeks away from beginning nursing school, and I only wish that I would have volunteered sooner. To all Children’s volunteers, new or veteran: you’re making such a difference, not only in the lives you touch at the hospital, but in your own life. Because of you, others find relief, as well as a fun playmate: you may find that you are a “jack-of-all-games!” No matter what sort of day you have outside of Children’s, your time here each week makes you stronger, kinder, and filled with power to make a difference wherever you go.
Warmest thoughts from a volunteer, who never dreamed she’d want to become a nurse….ever.
Inpatient Unit Volunteer, 2011-2012