The Memorial Hospital's youth volunteer program has drawn six high school students to learn a little bit about health care, a lot about the hospital's phone system and gain experience they can take with them to future jobs.
Although the work doesn't pay, the students might reap the benefits down the road, because volunteer work can make a scholarship application shine.
Some scholarships are based exclusively on volunteer work, according to Paula Duzik, a school counselor at Moffat County High School.
Volunteer work probably doesn't have much effect on a student's chances for college admission, since most students must meet minimum grade and test score requirement, Duzik said. But colleges like evidence of a well-rounded student, and it certainly can't hurt.
"I think for admission it depends on the school, but for scholarships it's really important," Duzik said.
All six of the students who trained to be volunteers at TMH last week cited scholarship and college applications as a reason for their work. They also said they just wanted to get involved in the community and help out.
"I just did 30 hours volunteering at Sunset Meadows," said Kyle Larmey, a 16-year-old sophomore at Moffat County High School. Larmey hopes to go into law enforcement, and possibly become an FBI agent.
Larmey and his friend, Rowan Dubois, a 16-year-old junior, showed up at TMH last week looking for volunteer work. They said they didn't even know about TMH's volunteer program. Dubois might go to medical school. Volunteering at the hospital might be a step toward that career, he said.
Pam Thompson, TMH's community relations director, began looking for high school volunteers in January. Thompson said she thought it would be a good way to give ambitious students a chance to learn about health care and customer service, lend a hand in the community and bolster their scholarship and college applications.
In return, TMH gets some much-needed help in the evenings, when front desk personnel help out in the emergency room, Thompson said.
She hopes the program will grow to include 20 or more students and involve the volunteers in multiple hospital departments. For now, the students are learning how to man the phones and the front desk, along with the hospital's gift shop. Soon, they will make rounds with a drink and snack cart and offer to read to patients, too.
The program includes a three-hour hospital orientation, the same orientation all hospital employees receive. After that, the students spend an hour training on the telephone switchboard and the front desk and one hour training in the gift shop. The last training is a two-hour session with Thompson that focuses exclusively on customer service.
Two of the first students who arrived were interested in healthcare careers and have parents who work at TMH.
Sophomore Tyler Menge, 15, and junior Darlene Bair, 16, were working the phones on Wednesday.
Bair said she knows for sure that she'll be attending the University of Utah. There's a chance she'll go into nursing, she said.
"I've already visited it twice and I really like it," Bair said. The campus impressed her more than others she has seen. The dorms are brand new since Utah hosted the Winter Olympics, Bair said.
Menge wants to go to University of Colorado or Stanford University. He might go into pre-med.
"That's what my brother is doing right now," Menge said.
Menge is working on a 50-hour volunteer stint with the Youth United Way. He decided to work those hours at TMH.
"I thought it would be interesting to help out," Menge said. "Plus it looks good on my applications as well."
Kim Colby, who is a trainer in the hospital's business office, taught Menge and Bair how to direct the hospital's phone traffic.
"We just got a call for Randy Phelps. He's the hospital administrator," Colby explained to the students. "I usually put them through to this extension."
"Good afternoon, Memorial Hospital," Bair said, answering one of her first calls.
Thompson said she was pleased the program has attracted the self-motivated, self-starting students she was hoping to see. The students will be dealing with patient confidentiality and cash, which adds a level of trust to the position.
The job also requires a measure of resourcefulness and problem-solving skills.
The students will need to know that a call for "nuclear medicine" needs to be routed to radiology, for example. If someone calls for the oncology department, the students will have to decide what to do, since TMH doesn't have an oncology department. But first, they might have to figure out what "oncology" means and then decide where to direct the call.
Thompson said she didn't expect the motivated college hopefuls to have trouble with the learning curve.
They seemed to be catching on quick.
"Day surgery, day surgery, day surgery," Menge said to himself, scanning the list of hospital extensions. "Sweet!" he said, when the call went through without a hitch.
Thompson said Holly Firestone, 16, and Leah Lambrecht, 16, also have signed up to help out. Students interested in volunteering at TMH should contact Pam Thompson at 824-9411.
Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org