By the time she turned 10, Taylor Newborn of McGee’s Crossroads knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up: a neonatal nurse.
Over the summer, the rising senior at West Johnston High learned a thing or two about patients of all ages when she volunteered Tuesday and Thursday mornings at Johnston Medical Center in Smithfield. Among other things, she answered call bells, filled ice buckets and made follow-up phone calls to discharged patients.
“I’m getting the feel of what it would be like to work in a hospital,” Taylor said. “That’s helpful.”
And that’s the point of Johnston Health’s eight-week-long Junior Volunteers Program, said volunteers coordinator Farrah Nguyen. “This is a good, early introduction to a career in health care,” she said.
Altogether, 51 students ranging in age from 14 to 20 got experience in 29 departments at the hospitals in Smithfield and Clayton. They took on myriad tasks, from filing to light cleaning. And employees were happy to have them.
“They do many of the tasks that help out our staff,” said Casey Nunnery, a clinical coordinator at the hospital in Smithfield. “We enjoy having their youthful faces here. They bring joy, and they brighten our patients’ days.”
Madison Kennemur, 20, of Clayton shadowed Shelly Malone, director of behavioral health services. It was part of a leadership program associated with her scholarship from the Golden Leaf Foundation. Among other things, Kennemur updated a patient guide and put into place a procedure for patients to order meals from a menu she designed.
Heretofore, behavioral health patients had received the same trays. Now they can choose from one of two entrees while also picking a vegetable, a starch and a starter. Having choices at meal times has made the patients happier, Kennemur said.
She and her sister, Skyler, are triplets. (They have a brother at home.) The sisters are rising juniors headed into the nursing program at East Carolina University. Skyler volunteered in the Smithfield emergency department, where she answered the phone, cleaned rooms and fetched blankets for patients.
“I’m learning to be more patient-oriented,” Skyler said. “It’s been helpful to watch the nurses take vital signs and to see how the staff works through chaotic situations.”
Malone said the sisters have become junior advocates for patients needing behavioral health care. “They have a maturity and calmness about them,” she said. “They’re also eager, energetic and always positive.”
Nguyen said this summer’s junior volunteers were pleasant and eager to learn. “They always had smiles on their faces,” she said. “I’ve had positive feedback from everyone.”