High school students volunteer summer hours to learn medical field

Teen volunteers of the Dignity Health Chandler Regional Medical Center and Mercy Gilbert Medical Center summer program attended a  session led by a panel of nurses Thursday, July 12. (Submitted photo)

Dignity Health Chandler Regional Medical Center and Mercy Gilbert Medical Center launched their 12th summer teen volunteer program in June.

Since it began in 2006, the volunteer services program has included more than 1,360 high school students wanting to learn about hospitals and health care.

Each year, Dignity Health’s East Valley hospitals – Chandler Regional and Mercy Gilbert Medical Centers – offer a summer volunteer experience for a select number of high school students ages 14-18.

The program’s applicants experience a screening and interview process that includes writing two essays, providing two letters of recommendation and maintaining at least a 3.5 GPA, according to a release.

“Our qualifications for the program were very competitive,” stated Valerie Heninger, supervisor of Volunteer Services at Mercy Gilbert. “This year, out of the 347 teens who applied, only 92 new students were chosen. This summer, including our 98 returning volunteers, we have a total of 200 students supporting our hospitals.”

The program offers an in-depth learning and leadership opportunity for teens interested in the health-care industry.

“We are dedicated to offering opportunities for these future leaders to serve,” stated Lori Mercer, supervisor of Volunteer Services at Chandler Regional. “We want to encourage them to learn about the variety of careers available in the medical field.”

The program runs through the end of July.

The 200 teens spend their summer gaining hands-on experience in the medical field and spend at least one day a week at the hospital, according to the release. They work on research and creative projects, escort patients, perform administrative duties, work alongside staff who mentor them and more.

“The program is level-based, so the teens with more experience have first pick for available job areas in almost 100 departments,” the release stated. “Students also have access to educational sessions throughout the summer such as discussions led by neurologists from Dignity Health’s Barrow Neurological Institute, hospital ethics, pathology, anesthesia, orthopedics, respiratory therapy, trauma one, and tours through the labs, pharmacies and Chandler Regional’s Wound Healing Center.”

Upon successful completion of the program, the teens receive a certificate, letter of recommendation and automatic acceptance into the following year’s program.

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