Friday, July 06, 2012
‘Hospital 101’: Students Get Taste of Medicine As Junior Volunteers
You might call it “Hospital 101,” but for most of the 14 high school students who elected to surrender six weeks of their summer vacation to volunteer at Parkwest Medical Center, it’s a little more than that.
Parkwest’s annual group of Junior Volunteers are now hard at work in a number of departments. The 14 Junior Volunteers, which include students from eight schools and one home-schooled student, participate, observe and gain first-hand knowledge of a hospital environment. The volunteers, from top to bottom steps, are: Front Row — Campbell Smith, Akshay Soni, Peter Xenopoulos, Brianna Kenyon and Connie Wang; Center Row — Beth Ogle, Courtney Boyd, Andrea Dai and Ashley Epperly; and Back Row — Zach Cole, John Clary, David Hamilton, Madison Bowman and Kristin Tilson.
It’s an introduction to a possible career in healthcare.
Junior Volunteers, which began at Parkwest in the mid-1990s, invites boys and girls between 15 and 17 years of age to participate, observe and gain first-hand knowledge of a hospital environment. This year’s group includes students from eight area high schools – Crossroads Christian, Bearden High School, Catholic High School, Farragut High School, Christian Academy, Karns High School, Hardin Valley and Oakdale High School – and one home school.
“The Junior Volunteers bring in energy and enthusiasm,” said Volunteer Services Coordinator Becky Boyd. “Junior Volunteers are generally high achievers looking to learn about various positions in the hospital. The staff looks forward to working with young, aspiring students pursuing medical opportunities, and enjoys mentoring them about their own experiences in choosing their healthcare path.”
While records are not available from the program’s beginning, Boyd says 141 students have gone through the program since 2004. “Several Junior Volunteers have come back as regular volunteers during the summer while they are pursuing medical careers,” said Boyd, noting that one of this year’s Junior Volunteers – Akshay Soni – had an uncle who volunteered at Parkwest while attending medical school.
According to Boyd, the students volunteer one or two days per week, either morning or afternoon, in three-hour shifts performing such tasks as escorting patients, delivering flowers, assembling information packets and helping out in the gift shop.
“I’m not completely decided on a career path, but I’ve been considering something in the medical field, and so I thought that by doing this, it would give me an opportunity to see what it was like to work inside a hospital,” said John Clary, a rising senior at Catholic High School. “It might make that decision a little easier. I’m just hoping to get a good view of almost everything. I don’t have any certain field in mind – I just kind of want to have a bunch of experiences and feed off of it.”
Even at 16, Kristin Tilson has already decided on her career. She wants so badly to become a pediatric orthopedic surgeon that she saw the Junior Volunteers program as a good way to get a feel for the “overall experience” of working in a hospital – even if it meant driving 60 miles -- one way -- twice a week from Oakdale where she is a rising junior at Oakdale School.
“There aren’t any programs like this where I live,” said Tilson. “I’m really interested in becoming a doctor. That’s what I’ve wanted to do my whole life. So I just figured I could volunteer, and make sure that’s what I want to do. I want to get the experience of working with patients and seeing what doctors do in their everyday life. I want to see how it operates.”
It didn’t take long to get that inside look. On their first day, the students attended a four-hour orientation program in which they learned about patient rights, confidentiality and integrity compliance, infection control and fire and safety.
Janice Watkin, director of Parkwest’s Health Information Management and its privacy officer, emphasized how zealously patient information should be protected and that the students also bear the responsibility of protecting patients’ privacy.
“Just as your heard about Las Vegas, what happens at Parkwest stays at Parkwest. Think of patient information as if it were your own,” said Watkin.
“Patient information takes on many formats,” she said. “Patient information is not always just listing a patient by name but giving the scenarios around it. If I were to say a patient was a Tennessee Vols quarterback from a certain year but don’t mention his name or if I mention a particular famous country music singer from Sevier County, a lot of times people are going to guess who I’m talking about.”
Even an unintentional release of partial information can compromise patient privacy. Watkin recounted how one hospital’s unauthorized release of a patient’s X-rays to a radiology class led to Tennessee’s Colby Stansberry Law in 2010. That law strengthened an already tough strict federal legislation known as the Health Insurance
Portability and Accountability Act or HIPA.
Sara Dodson, an infection preventionist, stressed the importance of hand washing to the students, noting that they will contaminate the outside of the gloves by not washing their hands before putting them on. “Wash before and after every patient contact,” she said, adding that the hospital utilizes “secret lookers” who monitor who’s washing and who isn’t.
After orientation, the Junior Volunteers received their hospital I.D. badge, volunteer jackets, a Parkwest t-shirt and, of course, the dreaded, but required, tuberculosis skin test.
“Eeehh,” said Connie Wang, a rising senior at Bearden High, clenching her teeth as she received her TB shot. “I was very nervous about this part.”
Wang’s own career aspirations lie outside the healthcare field, but volunteered because “I really wanted to see what there is to do in a hospital.”
One of the places she was able to see first-hand was the marketing department where she was able to join Marketing Coordinator Shelby Bowers at lunch-and-learn.program at Strang Senior Center.
Peter Xenopoulos, however, was hardly new to Parkwest.
The son of Parkwest cardiologist Dr. Nicholaos Xenopoulos and a rising junior at Farragut High School, 16-year-old Peter said his first day as a Junior Volunteer was “pretty solid – about what I expected.”
“I like Parkwest, and I really like the facility,” he said.
Still, he said his own future is still undecided.
“I really don’t know yet,” he said. “I like everything but I need to decide. I’m interested in some things more than others, probably more orthopedics and sports medicine. Dad’s a cardiologist, though – I don’t want to do that. Maybe an ER doctor.”