Piedmont Henry to recognize students in volunteer program

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Eighteen-year-old Lauren Priester said a recent volunteer opportunity at Piedmont Henry Hospital gave her the chance to pursue her dream of working in the healthcare field and interacting with patients.

Piedmont Henry Hospital's 2016 Student Volunteers. Special photo

“I just enjoy coming to the hospital,” said Priester. “I enjoy talking to the patients, asking them how their day is going.”

Priester is one of 23 participants in this year’s summer youth volunteer program at the hospital. Piedmont Henry will recognize the group July 29 at 6:30 p.m., during a celebration in Piedmont Henry’s Education Building.

Priester graduated from Henry County High School in May and will major in nursing in the fall at Gordon State College. She plans to be a pre-natal nurse practitioner specializing in labor and delivery, and said volunteering falls in line with her career aspirations.

“It’s just like a second home, because this is where I want to be after I get out of grad school,” she said.

The volunteer program began in June and runs through the end of July. Participants gain hands-on experience in the healthcare field by working in a number of departments at the hospital.

A total of 40 students applied for the volunteer program, of which 23 were selected to participate as volunteers, said the hospital’s Clinical Education Coordinator, Carmen Hough. She said some in this year’s group are in the school system’s Allied Health program.

“We have the program at all 10 high schools in Henry County,” says Hough. “The third year of their program, they come to the hospital and do clinical observations throughout the hospital for at least 20 hours per student. A lot of our teen volunteers are through that that program.”

Hough acknowledged that completing requirements for the program is more difficult for the students than in years past. Still, she said a number of them have risen to meet the challenge head-on.

“They’re asked to complete 50 hours during the summer, which is not easy to do now because the summer is so short,” said Hough. “But, we already have several that have exceeded the 50-hour requirement.”

Hough added that participants in Youth Leadership Henry, as well as some students from Community Christian School and Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy, have also been active in the volunteer program. She praised the group for their dedication to the program.

“They’re interested in volunteering because care about community and want to give back,” said Hough.

“I think it’s gone extremely well,” said Hough. “The students are energetic, they’re always asking to do more things, and I have gotten good comments from the departments they’ve worked in.”

Piedmont Henry’s Volunteer Coordinator, Mary Ann Hills, noted that the program returned to the hospital in 2016 after a six-year hiatus. She said volunteers in the program have provided assistance in the hospital’s nursing units, and have taken activity carts with adult coloring books, magazines, and games to patients’ rooms.

“We’ve got volunteers helping at the Radiology, Physical Therapy, Education department, nursing unit, cath lab, Lollipops Baby Gift Shop, and the Wound Care Clinic,” said Hills. “They’re greeting the guests and patients, they’re going into the rooms and seeing if there’s anything the patient needs.”

Hills said the young volunteers have helped patients by adjusting blinds and beds in their rooms, and helping to answer call lights to ensure that those patients are seen by nurses when needed.

“The patients brighten up,” said Hills. “I think it adds to the wellness of the patients. A lot of our patients are elderly, so to have a young person come into their room and spend time with them, it brings joy to replace their gloom. That’s what we’re about, and one way you can do that is through the personal touch. It makes the patients feel better seeing a young person with a beautiful smile

Hills added that the students have been “saving the day” throughout the program by selling baby gift items in the Lollipops gift shop at the hospital while some Auxiliary workers are on vacation during the summer.

“It’s about the little things,” she said. “It’s those little things that make a big difference.”