Did I ever get to thank you for helping me? I am one of the pediatric residents you see running around like a headless chicken. We first met over a year ago when I was just a wee intern. You helped me calm an anxious boy who was about to get stitches. He had sliced his arm with a box cutter, creating a gaping wound for me to close. I’m not sure who was more nervous – the boy or the intern (me). Thankfully, as I got started, you began asking our patient about his cool science projects. You guys really hit it off and chatted nonstop about cars, ships, maybe some physics too. You probably didn’t know how grateful I was for your presence. As a new intern, the ability to focus on a procedure without child and parent anxiously staring down at me was absolutely priceless.
Did you know that before I started medical school, I was a hospital volunteer? I worked in a busy emergency room. And I wore a very unflattering uniform with plenty of pockets for supplies. At least yours is blue and not tan.
During my own time as an ER volunteer, I got to meet some interesting patients and observe intense trauma cases. It was a neat experience, but to be honest, I felt rather useless and unimportant. Apart from the occasional help with chest compressions, I mostly just stocked the blanket warmers, wiped down wheelchairs, and picked out clothes from the donation closet.
I just wanted you to know that you are not unimportant. You are actually very important! You put smiles on our children’s faces. You make them comfortable in a scary environment. You see them as humans, when others just see them as numbers. Even mundane tasks like replacing computer batteries do not go unnoticed by me. Every time I grab a functioning WOW (workstation on wheels), I internally rejoice, “thank you, volunteer!” In our busy ER, where minutes matter, having a computer with a full battery can be a lifesaver.
In conclusion, hospital volunteer, you are awesome. Maybe you are just doing this for your resume or college application. Maybe you are trying to pursue a career in health care. Regardless, I am always glad to see you around, playing an essential role in our emergency department.
Kathleen Lo is a pediatric resident.
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