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Local youth volunteer at UIHC in the program's 30th year

BY AMY SKARNULIS | JULY 19, 2012 6:30 AM

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While other high-school students spend their summers at the pool or the Reservoir, the junior volunteer program at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics has full enrollment each summer for interested in pursuing a career in the medical field.

The UIHC holds an eight-week, junior volunteer program at the hospital each summer. The program participants are high school students interested in a career in the health sciences.

Jean Reed, director of volunteer services at the UIHC, said the program, from June 14 to Aug. 8, exposes the volunteers to as many health-science career paths as possible.

"They come in thinking maybe they could be a nurse or a doctor," she said. "But [we show them] there are more than a dozen other paths they could take."

Reed said there are fewer college student volunteers in the summer, but with the junior volunteer program, the facility has enough help because there are more high-school student volunteers.

The program is structured to help high-school-aged students figure out what area of health sciences they want to pursue in college and ultimately in a career.

Jennifer Greiner, a senior at Iowa City Regina High, has been in the junior volunteer program for four years and has more than 150 volunteer hours. The program has helped her find the area of health sciences that she is most interested in pursuing.

"I want to be a nurse practitioner in either pediatrics or the neonatal clinic," she said.

Amy Rood, associate director of volunteer services, said the program fills up every year and volunteers need to go through an application process.

"They need to write an essay, and they get a letter of recommendation," she said. "They are required to do three hours of volunteering each week [once they are in the program]."

According to the UIHC Volunteer Services official website, students must be 14 years old or have completed eighth grade by June 1 to apply for the program. The junior volunteers also must commit to a minimum of seven of eight weeks.

Reed said the junior volunteers come for a weekly shift at the hospital that is either 9 a.m. to noon or noon to 4 p.m. They also attend a weekly seminar that introduces different health-science careers in-depth.

"Last week was dentistry," Reed said. "They learned about [the profession], and we took a tour of the building."

According to the website, junior volunteers attend seminars to learn more about career opportunities in medical fields, and learn more about how a hospital operates through tours of the hospital facilities.

Rood said each volunteer shift and each seminar cover a different in the realm of health sciences.

"Every Thursday they all come together they have a career facility tour and a seminar each week," she said. "We had pediatrics [before, and] surgery next week. We just kind of switch out [different areas]."

Regina junior Ryan Miller has been in the program for two years and likes the variety of opportunities the volunteer program provides.

"Usually, you're switched around to get experience in different areas and different areas of the hospital," he said. "[I'm interested in] ophthalmology also … I'm looking forward to the surgery [next week]."

The variation of health-science areas has also affected Natalie Barns, a sophomore at Cedar Rapids Washington, who has been in the program for two years.

"[I'm interested in] radiology and [being] and X-ray technician," she said. "The child unit opened my eyes, too."


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