CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A local hospital has recently graduated its largest class yet of young volunteers eager to get some real-world experience alongside doctors and nurses.
Thomas Health System's VolunTEEN Program had 48 participants this past summer — almost double the previous year's 25.
"Our VolunTEEN Program helps give the students some insight as to what their career in the future may be — or they may make the decision that this isn't what they want to do," VolunTEEN coordinator Cindy Childress said.
The program aims to help 14- to 18-year-olds decide on a career in the health field by allowing them hands-on experience in a hospital, including everything from changing linens on beds and getting ice for patients, to working with nursing assistants and observing cesarean sections.
"They can come in and see what's happening on the front line working with patients," Childress said.
The summer program ran for seven weeks from June 10 to July 26. At about one day per week, it gives the volunteers about 50 hours of experience, she said.
Thomas Memorial Hospital and St. Francis Hospital both offer many of the same volunteer positions, but there is some variation. The main areas offered are pharmacy, physical therapy, radiology, various nursing floors, preadmission testing, materials management, food and nutrition, one-day surgery, endoscopy and main surgery.
Volunteers who have participated in the program previously have first choice of which section they'd like to participate. After an application and interview, the volunteers are matched up in an area of interest.
If the participants are interested in more than one area, Childress tries to schedule more time.
Jamie Vermillion, 18, of Charleston, participated in VolunTEEN for four years.
"I volunteered at the one-day surgery center, and I helped patients who just came out of surgery," she said. "I helped clean the beds after patients, helped with paperwork."
Vermillion is starting nursing school this fall at Marshall University.
"I want to be a critical care nurse, so I thought that would look good on a nursing application. The program helped me realize I wanted to go into nursing even more because I like it. It made me more set on nursing than I already was when I started."
Lauren Bissett, 16, of Teays Valley, completed her first session this summer.