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Teens can see what it’s like to be a nurse at Macon hospital

December 21, 2018

MACON, Ga. (AP) — There’s a shortage of nurses in Georgia, and local hospitals are struggling to fill their ranks. Navicent Health hopes to change that.

In August, the hospital rebooted its candy stripers program, recruiting 14 high school volunteers from Mount de Sales Academy and Hutchings College and Career Academy to assist nurses with their daily tasks.

“Some teenagers never even go into a hospital, and if you’re not exposed to it, you may not know what it’s like to be a nurse,” said Tracey Blalock, chief nursing officer of The Medical Center, Navicent Health. “So we really hope that this program will be successful and will benefit us, you know, five or six years from now, when these kids are graduating from colleges.”

Blalock fell in love with nursing when she volunteered as a candy striper 35 years ago.

After a years-long hiatus, Navicent Health’s revived candy striper program aims to attract a new generation of nurses early on.

Navicent Health has partnered closely with nearby nursing schools for years, offering externships and career development opportunities to those already studying for a nursing degree. But Blalock realized there was an untapped market of local high school students who might already be interested in the field.

As volunteers in a nursing unit, Blalock said, candy stripers can see, firsthand, the impact nurses have on their patients.

“Being a nurse is such a rewarding career, because you are dealing with individuals when they’re at their most vulnerable times in their life,” she said, “and you get to see little things that you can do can make a big difference for someone.”

‘ALL MY GUIDANCE COMES FROM THE NURSES’

After the last bell rings at the end of the school day, Mount de Sales senior Shango Rich throws on a red and white striped v-neck and walks down the hill to the Medical Center, Navicent Health, where he volunteers on the neurosurgical floor.

Rich knew he wanted to eventually work in the medical field, so he jumped at the chance to apply for the candy stripers program.

“I want to work in a hospital one day, and I thought this would be really good experience,” Rich said.

In a given day, Rich might assemble informational packets for new patients, hand out extra blankets or file paperwork. But he spends most of his time speaking with patients.

“You learn a lot of life stories,” Rich said. “And I think it’s really cool that they share that.”

Rich remembers visiting one patient as she struggled through weeks of surgeries, infection and physical therapy. He would sit down and talk with her day after day, assuring her that things would get better. Sure enough, she was discharged and on the mend a few weeks later.

It was a really big moment, Rich said.

“It’s something that I could see, like, actually happen,” he said. “Like, something I actually helped make.”

Rich can’t help but comfort anyone he meets, said Nurse Director Angie Harrod.

“He just goes in and it’s that extra patient experience, you know, that we’re here for them, and he’s very genuine when he does that,” Harrod said. “Some of these patients can’t have visitors around the clock, and just having someone come in and sit down and say, ‘How are you doing?’ It’s very nice.”

Harrod knows how important those little interactions are to her patients. Nurses helped her through a months-long recovery from an accident when she was 19. And after Harrod recovered, she decided to pursue a nursing degree.

“I said, ‘I want to be the one that someone can turn to for those things that we take for granted every day,’” she said.

Harrod has spent the past 20 years caring for patients, just as those nurses cared for her decades ago. Now, she wants to inspire other young people to follow in her footsteps.

She thinks giving high school students like Rich an inside look into life on the floor will show them all that nursing has to offer.

“He can gain a greater, you know, perception of what the health care requires,” Rich said. “And they’re going to go into it for all the right reasons should they choose that that be their path.”

After four months as a candy striper, Rich recognizes the vital role nurses play in patient care.

Doctors supervise their patients’ treatment, he said, but nurses carry it out.

“All my guidance comes from the nurses,” Rich said. “The nurses really do run this hospital.”

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Information from: The Telegraph, http://www.macontelegraph.com

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