Sky Ridge Medical Center volunteer program empowers teens

Students get hands-on experience, possible career insights for medical fields

Posted 5/22/18

Many teenagers spend their Friday nights hanging out with friends, watching videos, playing games or strolling the mall. Not Sky Ridge Medical Center student volunteers Sydney Brennan, Eileen Kennedy …

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Sky Ridge Medical Center volunteer program empowers teens

Students get hands-on experience, possible career insights for medical fields

Posted

Many teenagers spend their Friday nights hanging out with friends, watching videos, playing games or strolling the mall. Not Sky Ridge Medical Center student volunteers Sydney Brennan, Eileen Kennedy and Aubrey Stevens. The three spend their Friday nights at the Lone Tree hospital, helping answer visitors' questions, directing visitors to patient rooms, answering phones and putting charts together to help the night nurses.

Student volunteers in the program, about 90 of them, all have a desire to pursue a career in the medical field, and commit to volunteer weekly throughout their high school career.

Brennan, 16, attends Highlands Ranch High School, and is hoping to go into the field of pediatric cardiology.

“I've always really liked kids, and I'm fascinated with the heart,” said Brennan. “When I was in middle school at Cresthill, we had a career fair and I met some nurses. I learned about this program and being here makes me even more certain that I want to go into the field of medicine.”

Brennan spends her Friday evenings helping nurses and doctors on the cardio-neuro floor of Sky Ridge, where she answers the phone, re-stocks items, and puts charts together. She also interacts with family members of the patients.

“Sometimes I get to visit with them in the waiting room,” said Brennan. “It distracts them from what they're worrying about and gives them a nice break.”

Volunteers as young as 14 can apply for the program, and according to John Penn, director of volunteers, he makes sure each volunteer gets on a path that interests them.

“In the summer of 2004, I realized we always had an influx of volunteers who just wanted to get their service hours done to graduate, then we had to start all over again with volunteers,” said Penn. “I also noticed students who had an interest in a medical career going out of state to camps or universities. From then on I have worked on recruiting students with an interest in future medical careers, and began creating individual long-term programs for them based on their interest.”

Kennedy, 15, who attends Rock Canyon High School, has been volunteering for about four months, and has had an interest in medicine for as long as she can remember. Like all new volunteers, she spends her Friday nights at the front desk, where she helps direct foot traffic through the hospital, and learns about every department.

“I really like it,” said Kennedy. “I love the hospital setting. There's a lot of stuff to learn, but I love every minute of it." Kennedy hopes to become a neonatal intensive care unit doctor or nurse, and will soon be spending more of her time in the NICU.

The diversity of medical careers can be overwhelming, and according to Penn, volunteering gives students the chance to see various career paths they may not have been aware of.

“Sometimes they're thinking health care but don't have a clear idea,” said Penn. “We can expose them to a variety of things.”

Stevens, 17, who also attends Rock Canyon High School, has been volunteering since January and is more interested in the research side of medicine.

“I'm still mastering the front desk,” said Stevens. “I'm more interested in the research aspect, because I love problem solving and helping people.”

Stevens will soon be focusing her volunteer hours in the inpatient laboratory at Sky Ridge, where she'll serve as an extra set of hands for the department as she shadows pathologists and micro-biologists.

Penn said the program has been incredibly successful, and now has a hard time narrowing down the applications.

“We've had close to 800 students come through the program,” said Penn. “Seven of our students have won Boettcher scholarships, we currently have two of our graduates attending medical school, and one student came back and practiced here as a doctor for a while.”

The volunteer program also lets students know if they have what it takes to serve in the medical industry.

“Either you find out you love it, or it's not for you,” said Penn. “If you love it, being a volunteer will hopefully help them start developing their passion for this, and developing a path for themselves.”

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