USA Health offers innovative student volunteering opportunities amid COVID-19 pandemic
The hybrid volunteering concept was developed to allow students to give back to the community and earn service hours in a safe environment.
By Lindsay Mott
Challenged by visitor restrictions designed to support safety at USA Health facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, USA Health’s volunteer services had to rethink how to support volunteer opportunities this summer for 65 teenage volunteers from Mobile and Baldwin Counties’ high schools. The solution was to offer an innovative hybrid volunteer program.
Volunteer services already had a number of student volunteers signed up for the summer session when the pandemic hit. The hybrid volunteering concept was developed to allow students to give back to the community and earn service hours in a safe environment.
“We are making lemonade out of lemons for these amazing students,” explained Belinda Baggett, director of volunteer services at USA Health. “Our goal is to make this a meaningful and positive experience, leaving them with good memories during a time of great challenge.”
Earlier this month, students participated in the standard orientation session through Zoom. Baggett said a recently-vacated clinic provides the volunteers space to work on patient-focused projects in a safe way: masked, socially-distanced, and supervised at all times. Every student has their own table with necessary supplies and each volunteer is screened every day – just like USA Health’s non-volunteer employees.
Running through the end of July 24, students in the program are working on projects such as no-sew fleece blankets, patient distraction and comfort kits, art, letters and cards for patients, virtual storytelling and music lessons, gripper socks for patients to prevent falls, motivational chalk art messages, and washing the exterior of ambulances. Hospital staff will also be making brief visits to the remote site to share healthcare career stories and answer student questions.
Programming is being coordinated by Baggett, along with Rebekah Blanchard and Ashley Peyer, the volunteer services staff at Children’s & Women’s Hospital and University Hospital, as well as Janice Hatchett, Ronald McDonald House family rooms volunteer coordinator.
Interested volunteers can submit applications for the fall session at usahealthsystem.com. Fall volunteer programs for adults and college students are on pause until further notice but are being evaluated.