patient safety with candy stripers

I walked into a hospital and saw a black and white photo of a young women dressed in striped pinafore recently.  Her hairdo resembled the style worn in the 1960s.  I began my research and learned the first candy striper program was started in New Jersey in 1944 at East Orange General Hospital.  The average age of the volunteer was between 13 and 18 and all were young women.  The program offered the girls an opportunity to socialize and become familiar with the requirements to pursue a career in nursing. 

What color was the uniform?  Did each hospital have their own style and colors?  It was sweet to learn the candy stripers got their name for those original volunteers serving at the East Orange General Hospital.  The volunteers at that hospital wore red and white striped pinafores over their dresses.  Material was provided to the girls by the school and a teacher directed the sewing of the uniforms.  Very talented and ambitious young women!  The color of the uniform reminded people within the hospital of the stripes on candy canes.  The name caught on and the volunteer program was known as the Candy Striper Volunteer Program.  I did learn the volunteers in other hospitals wore different apparel.

Today, Youth Volunteer Programs are open to young men and women.  The phase, “candy striper”, is outdated but the dedication of young men and women across the US is not outdated!  If you or someone you know is interested please contact the human resources department within your local hospital.  Ask if they offer a Youth Volunteer Program.  Due to security issues, confidentiality and other liability issues hospitals are not encouraging direct access to patients. The young person may perform clerical duties, greet visitors or assist in the gift shop.  Some volunteers who are extremely interested will be allowed to shadow doctors or nurse who serve as mentors. 

Volunteers are vital to the service provided by hospitals.  They raise money, cheer up patients and perform routine tasks to allow doctors and nurses to focus on patient safety.  Volunteers also gain from the experience.

Most volunteers will gain specific training to include blood borne pathogens, sanitation and an overview of hospital safety procedures.  Your local hospital may even provide additional workshops related to specialized topics that interest you.  If you, or a young person you know is thinking of a career in the medical profession, volunteering is the perfect start.