Junior volunteers explore medical careers at hospital
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 25, 2013 1:46 PM
Rizk Alghorazi, right, a junior volunteer at Wayne Memorial Hospital, pulls a warm blanket over Garry Ruzy as he prepares to undergo an outpatient procedure. Alghorazi is a rising junior at Wayne Early/Middle College High School, and hopes to become a neurosurgeon.
They used to be called "candy stripers" -- exuberant helpers in red-and-white striped outfits serving as support staff at the hospital.
These days, they are junior volunteers and are likely decked out in a vibrant teal or orange shirt and khaki pants.
But their role is the same, students spending their summer vacation pitching in where needed.
Most work eight hours a week, a four-hour shift two days each week, said Donna Archer, director of volunteer services at Wayne Memorial Hospital, who tries to assign them by areas of interest and comfort level.
"The students are selected in early May based on references, acceptable grades and an essay," she said. "Following interview and orientation, the students selected began an eight-week program on June 17."
To give them a better sense of the medical profession, Mrs. Archer said each volunteer gets two assignments, one in a nursing area and the other in a clerical or customer service role.
"I feel that if a student only ends up with an assignment filing for four hours each week, they don't get a real representation of the hospital. Also, most of them are interested in a health care career, so I wanted them to be around clinical staff if at all possible," she said.
"I hope through the clerical assignments, they see how many hands it takes to really accomplish something in the hospital."
"I have. It's a lot," said Casey Whitted of Mount Olive. At 15, the rising sophomore at North Duplin High School has an interest in occupational or physical therapy. "It's really opened my eyes to see how many people are involved in health care."
She said the experience so far has not only reinforced her future plans, but ruled out another career path.
"Now I know I don't want to be a nurse for sure," she said.
"That's why I also did this, just to make sure I was into it," said Alexis Macanas, 16, a rising junior at Spring Creek High School, with aspirations of becoming a traveling nurse.
Casey said her "moment of truth" came when she witnessed a nurse attempting to insert a feeding tube into a resistant patient's nose.
"She wasn't too happy about it. They had to hold her down," Casey said.
Summer Rose, 15, has had no problem with the more difficult side of the job. She said she knew early on she wanted to be in the medical field and working at the hospital has not changed that.
"I have always said I wanted to be a nurse," she said. "I want to be a plastic surgeon."
The junior at Charles B. Aycock High School is assigned to the recovery room and the diabetes clinic.
"I just like taking care of people and seeing them go from their worst state to their best," she said. "I'm in the recovery room, so I get to see people when they come out of surgery, and I have seen plastic surgery patients. I have seen them coming out of anesthesia."
All three agree that the summer opportunity has been worthwhile.
"I have learned that there's more than just nursing or doctors. There are all kinds of jobs in the medical field," Alexis said. "I would like to look into those jobs and if all else fails, I will just join the CIA."
"I volunteered at the courthouse before. It didn't do anything for me," Summer said. "But when I leave here, it makes me feel like I have made a difference."
Mrs. Archer currently has 25 students in the program, seven of them returnees, including Rizk Alghorazi, a junior at Wayne Early/Middle College High School.
Both years, he has worked in the area of day surgery. This summer, he is also assigned to the Sunshine Corner gift shop.
It's been a good training ground for the aspiring physician.
"I want to become a neurosurgeon," he said.
None of his relatives are in the profession, he said, but his older brother, handicapped and brain-damaged, has long suffered from seizures, prompting Rizk to veer to that area of medicine.
"I knew I wanted to be in the medical field since I was a kid. That was a given," he said. Around middle school, he decided he wanted to help others like his brother.
Volunteering, talking with patients as well as doctors and nurses, has been worthwhile, he said.
"I would definitely recommend it to somebody that wants to be in the medical field," he said. "You can learn a lot about people."
Not all of the junior volunteers will pursue a career in nursing, Mrs. Archer said.
"Some just want the hours for a senior project," she said. "The majority are interested in the health care field or they would volunteer somewhere else."
She said she would love to see the program grow even bigger in the future.
"I need more staff buy-in because my number of assignments changes each year based on the requests I get," she said.