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The Catalyst

Candy stripers begin health care careers at MUSC

By Emily Upshur
Public Relations

Hospital Candy Stripers Zainab Hussain, 16, from left, serves coffee to Patient Admissions staff Sandra Purdie and Monica Pickney, as  fellow volunteers Emma Scott, 14, and Miracle Boss, 17, push the coffee cart. photo by Emily Upshur, Public Relations

A busy hospital like MUSC requires many hands to manage day-to-day activities. Some of those hands belong to teenage volunteers.

MUSC’s Department of Volunteer and Guest Services offers a Candy Striper/Junior Volunteer program for teenagers ages 14 to 18. Conducted in three–week intervals during June and July, the program can accommodate upward of 25 volunteers. Each junior volunteer undergoes a thorough screening process prior to acceptance and is required to submit his or her grade point average, a letter of recommendation and a written essay.

Candy striper duties vary from patient transport and administrative assistance to greeting visitors and serving tasty treats from the coffee cart to patients and faculty.

Volunteer recruiter Matthias Frye said, “The program itself gives the students an opportunity to get work experience. It also gives a health care experience for those who are interested in getting into health care. For a lot of them, this is their first time in a health care setting. Some of them go on to big things and I’ve actually seen a few who have started a medical career here at MUSC.”

Several of Frye’s current candy stripers have expressed an interest in the medical field. Eduardo Da Costa mentioned his interest in becoming a cardiologist, while Aubree Johnson said that she might pursue either the field of anesthesiology or radiology. Emma Scott, who shadowed an MUSC neurologist in February, believes that volunteering would help her decide if a career in health care is in her future.

The program also gives the teenagers a real taste of what goes on in an institution like MUSC. What most surprised these junior volunteers was just how many different positions are needed to keep a hospital running smoothly.    

Jeya Anandakumar, whose father works at MUSC as a researcher, said, “Whenever I used to hear the word ‘hospital’ I always thought ‘doctors’. But now that I’ve come here, I’ve learned that there are so many other jobs than just being a doctor. You need technicians and greeters and you need people in the cafeteria. It made me realize that hospitals are not just made up of doctors and nurses.”

Da Costa elaborated on this idea when he spoke about his job as a delivery person in Central Supply. He explained that if there were to be a medical emergency, and the supplies had not been delivered on time or stocked properly, it could cost a patient his or her life. Da Costa said he now realizes that what could seemingly be considered a minor job in a hospital setting, such as delivering equipment, is actually very important.

Understanding the importance of their tasks has helped the candy stripers fully embrace their jobs as well as the rewards and challenges that come with them.

Whether helping disgruntled patients or receiving a sincere thank you, the junior volunteers recognize that they have to keep an open mind and a cheerful spirit.

When asked what advice they would give to prospective candy stripers, each junior volunteer had a similar suggestion.

“Come prepared — expect the unexpected because you never know how your day’s going to turn out. The job could switch — there could be a new person. You have to be prepared for anything that comes your way,” Emma cautioned.

Johnson agreed, adding, “You need to have a good attitude just in general. Because if you’re upset or don’t want to be here, the people who come in – they don’t want to be here, either, but you can try to make their experience better.”



July 10, 2014



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