Volunteens Pitch In For Hospital, Patients

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Jolene Hood, 17, wants to be an obstetrics nurse and has gone to the best place in town to get experience and information: Payson Regional Medical Center.

Jolene is one of 14 Payson Volunteens, a new group of volunteers sponsored by the Mogollon Health Alliance who are spending time at the hospital helping patients and relieving staff. It's an area of service that once was provided at the hospital by "Candy Stripers."

PRMC Assistant CEO Missy Spencer said Thursday that she noticed teens coming to the hospital looking for community service. "I thought, 'Now is a good time.' I brought it to the MHA and Hospital Auxiliary and, lucky for us, Betty (Negri) had an interest in it."

That was about six months ago, and now Negri, an Auxiliary member and president of the volunteers at the hospital, spends her time recruiting volunteers between the ages of 14 and 18 for the Volunteen program.

When Negri gets a call from a prospective Volunteen, she turns the teen over to Lynn Carlton, PRMC nursing administrative assistant.

Carlton, who coordinates staffing for the hospital's nursing department, then provides the volunteers with a job description and on-the-job training.

As Volunteens, Jolene and the other teens run errands for patients, accompany them when they leave the hospital, and are generally on hand to help out wherever there's a need.

Hours are flexible, but each has to take a six-hour orientation and spend a day on one of the hospital's floors before they became a Volunteen.

"I've learned a lot," Jolene said, "how everything is abbreviated, and I learned about why the patients are here." During her orientation, Jolene also learned about patient confidentiality and hospital codes and policies.

She has a full-time job at Wal-Mart and now puts in about two hours a week at the hospital. She hopes to continue her work as a Volunteen when she returns to Payson High School as a senior this fall.

Jolene went through the orientation in mid-June, while she was still in school, and has been a Volunteen for about a month. Now she will help the others as they go through their orientation and on-the-job training.

Some of the new recruits were on hand Thursday to talk about why they got involved with the group.

Heather Williams, 14, the youngest of the group, is planning to be a registered nurse. Brandyce Engler, 16, a PHS senior, is thinking about going into a career in the medical field. She said she hopes to put in 10 hours a week as a Volunteen.

"If I can make it with my busy schedule," Brandyce said. "It'll be hard when school starts, with sports and all." She also works part-time at the town's Parks and Recreation Department and would like to continue her work there.

"But I'll be working somewhere during the school year," she said, "as well as being a Volunteen."

Heather said she plans to put in as many hours as she can. She's a freshman at PHS and doesn't have a job.

Alicia Meadows, 15, started working as a Volunteen a week ago. She is working in the outpatient surgery and radiology departments, but prefers radiology because she eventually wants to have a career in the field.

She said she's also found that being a cheerleader at the high school helps in her work at the hospital. "When I'm done here, I go practice," she said."

As a cheerleader, she has learned how important it is to have a positive attitude and to smile. "One lady asked me if I was a cheerleader because I smiled all the time," Alicia said. "I also learned in orientation to smile."

Seven of the Volunteens are already working at the hospital and another seven are all lined up and ready to go, Negri said.

"The staff is really glad they're here," Carlton said. "They're asking me when they're coming."

Spencer said the Volunteens go through almost as much orientation as the hospital staff and get a lot of skills quickly.

"Most of them say they want to go into the medical field," Negri said. "I had one boy who's 13 call and say he wants to be a doctor."

The young boy will have to wait till he's 14 before he becomes a Volunteen, she said, but the volunteer opportunities will continue at the hospital all year long. He'll have a chance to join the Volunteens at a later time.

"There's never a shortage of things to do," Spencer said.

In addition to the valuable information they get, Volunteens receive special aprons, name badges and free lunches -- and they get to smile a lot and help people. And they all agreed, that that's a good feeling.

For information on Volunteens of Payson, call Betty Negri at 474-1631.

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