ST. LOUIS - Decorations, red carpet treatment, performances, bingo and dancing were part of the fun during what’s become an annual event at the Mercy Skilled Nursing Center. Young adult volunteers plan the event as part of an innovative summer volunteer program called Teens Learning in the Community (TLC).
Teens interested in a career in health care might have some ideas about what they want to do, but with fewer summer jobs available gaining experience can be challenging. TLC combines education and service by offering high school and college-age students, 16 years and older, interested in a health care career an opportunity to learn more about different options in the field. It fosters a commitment to volunteering, offers valuable insight into a variety of health care professions and experience in multiple areas of the hospital.
Courtney Richards, 20, of Potosi, traveled an hour and a half each way to participate in the TLC program. She said the drive wasn’t too bad and that it was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.
“I knew I wanted to go into nursing, but until this summer wasn’t sure which area,” Richards said.
While spending time volunteering in the mother/baby unit at Mercy Hospital St. Louis, Richards calmed babies, took babies from the nursery back to patient rooms and helped with the discharge process. She said the experience helped her realize she has a love of babies and it’s where she wants to focus when she starts the nursing program at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville this fall. “I now know I want to be a neonatal nurse practitioner.”
The students learn to work as a team to complete a project to improve the care of Mercy patients. This experience also cultivates a sense of leadership, team building and confidence in the participants. They interact with medical professionals, explore non-clinical positions and have “Lunch and Learn” lectures where guest speakers share information about specific jobs at Mercy.
The TLC Volunteers spend part of each day assisting Mercy co-workers rotating through many patient care areas helping where needed and also simply providing a listening ear during a stressful time in a patient’s life.
For Emily Reider, 17, a senior at Kirkwood High School, the program was also enlightening. When she was little her hand went through a glass door and ever since she’s had an interest in medicine. “I’d really like to be a trauma surgeon,” Reider said.
During her time in the TLC program, Reider worked in the intensive care unit, has seen a different areas and really liked the high level of care. “The compassion and dynamics in the ICU with the nurses and techs has been amazing,” she said.
Special projects are planned throughout the TLC session to show the teens the importance of patient compassion and interaction in the medical field. One of this year’s projects was a Red Carpet Party for the residents of Mercy Skilled Nursing. Through the event, the TLC volunteers are able to celebrate with Mercy patients, while learning more about medicine in a non-threatening and educational environment. It teaches the TLC volunteers that an illness or diagnosis does not define a patient; rather the whole person must be considered for successful treatment.
For others interested in pursuing medicine, Reider strongly recommends the program. “It’s been a really great opportunity to be in a hospital and see things that go one. It also opens your eyes to other career paths you might not have thought about.”
For more information about TLC, please click here.