Volunteens taking applications now

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

It's that time again.

With summer break closer than ever, the application period for Mercy Hospital's Volunteens program has begun. Applications are due Monday, May 18, and can be turned in at Mercy Hospital in Berryville.

Cody Qualls, executive director of the Mercy Health Foundation, said the program is a way for students to get hands-on experience in various aspects of the medical field, including general nursing, emergency department, pharmacy, physical therapy and radiology.

Open to all Carroll County students between the 14 and 19 years old, the program will begin Tuesday, June 2.

"This is a tremendous program for our local high school students," Qualls said. "It truly is a unique experience for students in this area. It allows them to see what it's like to work in direct patient care areas and really gives them a first-hand experience they could not get anywhere else."

The program doesn't just focus on work inside the hospital, Qualls noted, with the students volunteering in the community during the last week of the program. Last year, the Volunteens helped rake and burn leaves at Richard and Wilma Keller's Country Dorm Resort and painted Neta Sue Stamps' storage shed.

Stamps praised the program, calling the help invaluable.

"I really appreciate it. It's extremely helpful to me. I wish more kids would come and join the group every year," Stamps said.

Last year's teens said the program helped them determine their future careers through the two months of volunteering. Before taking part in the program, Berryville senior Clarissa Cox was unsure about the future. She thanked the program for helping her realize that she wants to be a surgeon.

"It's really fun. It showed me me what I didn't and did want to do," Cox said.

Of course, Qualls said, students don't have to operate on patients to work in a hospital.

"I always say, 'You don't have to be drawing blood.' Hospitals have the opportunity to do marketing, accounting and public relations," Qualls said.

The idea to get the Volunteens out of the hospital for the work week came from Dr. William Walker of St. Louis. Every year, Walker takes a group of teenagers on a mission trip for a week, where they help community members with large projects such as building sheds and other construction. Kristy Estrem, president of the Mercy Health Foundation, realized that Walker's program would fit well with the Volunteens program at Mercy Hospital.

"We realized how well it tied in with the auxiliary and how we are trying to figure out a million ways to say thanks to our auxiliary," she said.

The auxiliary, Estrem explained, is composed of volunteers for the hospital who greet customers, help patients, run the gift and thrift shops and make regular donations to the hospital's charity funds. Since 1982, the auxiliary has been working on raising $1 million for the hospital.

Qualls asked that any students interested in volunteering or hospital work apply, saying the program helps students give back to the community while figuring out if they'd like a career in the medical field.

To apply, contact your high school counselor or call Qualls at 870-423-5245.

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