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Volunteer at a Hospital

With many hospitals currently being understaffed, medical professionals often have no choice but to rush from room to room caring for a large volume of sick individuals, sometimes leaving behind patients who are confused, lonely or depressed.

Hospital volunteers can help fill in those sometimes long stretches of time in a patient's day by listening to their fears and helping to meet their needs. Some patients are happy to borrow reading material and games from the hospitality cart that volunteers often push around. Others simply want someone to keep them company during their meals. It is also not uncommon for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy to find it therapeutic to want to braid a volunteer's hair as they are losing their own.

Hospital volunteers can provide joy and compassion for those who have no family or friends to visit them. They can cuddle and sooth babies. They can even help those dying of terminal illnesses regain some comfort and dignity in their final days.

Other Duties

Basically opportunities for volunteers can grow daily and vary from facility to facility. There are positions for individuals, from children through senior citizens, as well as various church and civic groups, such as the Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts.

For those who prefer not to interact with patients, they can volunteer in the mail room, cafeteria, gift shop, library or with hospital transportation.

Still others can showcase any creative talents they have by making artwork, cards and crafts to distribute to patients, or by sharing their musical skills.

Volunteers are never asked to handle biohazardous materials -- only trained hospital staff members are authorized to do that.

Some volunteers are happy in one area, while others request to be shuffled around for variety and to learn more about how a hospital functions as a whole. The latter can be helpful for high school or college students considering a career in health care, as they can see first-hand what it entails.

All volunteers must wear a uniform which has evolved with time. Once known as "candy stripers," the all-female volunteers of the past wore pinafores with thin red and white stripes that resembled holiday peppermint. Now, males and females often wear either smocks or polo shirts which showcase service pins they receive for hours volunteered.

Requirements and Training

Hospitals require some screening before an individual can join the group of volunteers. They must attend an orientation meeting to see first of all if the work would be a good fit for their personality.

During the orientation, potential volunteers will become familiar with the various areas of the hospital, any emergency codes, hospital etiquette and other aspects of the position.

Those who are willing to put in at least four hours of time a week, are approved by a senior member of the volunteer staff, and show responsibility will also have to submit to a health screening to rule out recreational drug use. It will also test for measles, chicken pox, tuberculosis and any other illnesses the hospital is looking for.

If accepted, the volunteer will work for usually 10 hours in a designated area before being moved to a location they are interested in. Some areas require more expertise so the volunteer may need to prove themselves before they can be transferred there.

Benefits of Volunteering at a Hospital

Those who volunteer to work around patients will gain perspective on humanity. They will see life, with all of its drama, joy and heartbreak play out before them.

Knowing that they add a small dose of sunshine to the lives of those who are suffering and their families can do wonders for their feelings of self worth and fulfillment.

Giving their time can be effective therapy for volunteers who have suffered depression or personal loss in the past. It can also grant a renewed sense of purpose to retirees.

Those who volunteer also get to pinpoint what their personal strengths are, which may give them some insight when they are looking for a job. They also will have real skills to add to their resume.

There are more tangible benefits to volunteering as well.

In addition to getting free training for their position, the volunteer will receive a parking pass and vouchers for free or reduced cost meals at the hospital. They also will have an annual awards banquet recognizing how many hours they put in for the year.

Depending on the hospital or care center, they also might receive free health screenings and flu shots, invitations to hospital benefits and functions, gift shop discounts and reduced employee rates for medical enrichment classes.

Overall, there are many good things that come from volunteering, especially at a hospital. If someone is still unsure or has questions, either an auxiliary or current hospital volunteer member would gladly shed some light on the experience.

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