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candy striper responsibilities

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What would the typical responsibilities for a candy striper be? I'm having my 16yo MC volunteer (for school) as a candy striper in the Pediatric and Maternity wards. Is this plausible? How much freedom would they have in the hospital? Would they be able to come and go as they pleased or would they have to adhere to a strict schedule with limited hospital access?
#1 - January 26, 2012, 11:15 AM
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I don't know about pediatric and maternity--there might be special rules about that.

When I was a candystriper--and mind you, this was maybe 26-27 years ago--our duties varied greatly depending on what area of the hospital we were helping at the time.   For a while, I worked in surgery.  Yes, surgery!  I had to wear a white lab coat whenever I left the surgery area, and this made me feel like a doctor (a big thrill as a kid).  But my joy pretty much ended there.  I soon learned that I didn't have the stomach to go in and out of the OR during surgery to fetch samples of whatever-it-was and take them to the lab and then bring back the results, etc.  It was just too . . . icky, sorry.

Also, I soon realized I was basically doing all the orderlies' work while they just stood there and chatted.

I eventually asked to be reassigned to a regular wing of the hospital, where my duties involved bringing patients their mail or flower deliveries, fresh water pitchers/cups and sometimes answering patient call buttons and such.  Much more boring, though I enjoyed meeting people and being useful.  Many people were obviously not at their best, though, and it took more patience and politeness that I normally had--therefore, it could be draining.

I also ran samples from the wing of the hospital I was in down to the lab and came back with results, etc.  So there was still a "body fluid" element to it, and there were . . . accidents (one truly embarrassing one was nearly totally my fault, too).

I believe I also went and fetched clean linens and towels and such.  I don't think I handled any dirty laundry but there was certainly plenty of it present in large bins when I went to fetch the clean stuff.

All in all, the experience taught me that I wasn't cut out to work in medicine.  I had been pretty ambitious before that, but afterward I knew that it wasn't my thing.
#2 - January 26, 2012, 11:34 AM

I was a phlebotomist at our local hospital. We had volunteers who worked in an administrative capacity (checking in visitors), but they didn't get to go to rooms or do anything with patients...there are too many privacy rules. We did have interns from time to time who worked with us in the lab, but they were usually getting a certificate in phlebotomy or labwork and were over age 18.
#3 - January 26, 2012, 12:44 PM
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My experience is decades old too, like Jaina's. I was a candy striper for two years, in the pediatrics ward of a general  hospital. I had a lot of responsibilities. I took blood, urine, and pathology samples to the lab, changed diapers (the awful, old-fashioned kind you had to rinse out in the toilet with your bare hands), fed babies, told stories to kids, fanned kids in the burns ward, and occasionally babysat for the brothers and sisters of sick kids. I also distracted kids who were going to have medical treatments (like having bandages changed, or wounds cleaned), sterilized plastic cots, ran errands for parents and nurses, and made beds. I had free run of the hospital and I LOVED it. I worked on the maternity ward and the extended care ward for a few weeks, but the pediatric ward was my favorite.

#4 - January 26, 2012, 01:10 PM


If you're interested in going that way, you can usually get trained as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) in one semester. I don't know if there are age requirements. More responsibility and it pays. A good part time job for a motivated student who's thinking about a health career.
#5 - January 26, 2012, 01:17 PM

I didn't address the hospital access part, but yes--I had my run of the hospital, and free meals in the cafeteria (well, we got vouchers from the volunteer coordinator).  I never tried to go into the maternity ward, though, and I doubt these days you could gain access to the babies by showing up as a random candy striper (at least I hope not!).

For some places, like surgery, I think I had to be buzzed in by whoever was minding the desk.
#6 - January 26, 2012, 01:20 PM

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Look at the websites of some hospitals and read about their teen volunteer opportunities. Or better yet, call their volunteer coordinator. If you're writing about an area that's very different from where you live, do your research specifically for that area. (for instance, rules about volunteers in a bustling city hospital are going to be stricter than a small rural one.)

A small note - "candystriper" sounds very dated to my ears. Maybe it's just where I live, but in my experience, they just call them volunteers now.

Younger teens may be able to volunteer, but they probably won't have any patient interaction at all - they'll do things like work in the gift shop or the medical library. Older teens will have a little patient interaction - delivering flowers, pushing wheelchairs, playing with kids, or maybe tutoring school-age kids who are there for a long time. And all volunteers have a schedule to adhere to because they have to sign up for shifts.
#7 - January 26, 2012, 01:54 PM


we just call them volunteers at the hospital where I work. They have a certain color smock or shirt I think and probably where nametags. But come and go as as "invisible employees" Where they could be on the floor and people wouldn't question them. They might fill waters  or deliver flowers. When I was a volunteer (twenty years ago) we were assigned to a nursing unit and helped nurses make beds and answer call lights but were not allowed to do direct patient care.
What I would do is call a local hospital and ask to speak to the volunteer coordinator and they'd be able to answer all your questions. Hope that helps!


#8 - January 26, 2012, 02:15 PM

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I was a Hospice volunteer at a nursing home for two years.  Just wearing the name badge allowed automatic entry into locked areas (where a reception person or guard had to buzz me in from the other side.) I had unofficial access to linens and general supplies (not drugs or syringes) and got what I needed so I didn't have to bother the staff.  The nurses all knew me, but I doubt anyone else would have questioned me if I grabbed a chart, or tried to enter a different wing of the facility.  I had no reason to overstep my limited authority -- but I probably could have, if I was a fictitious character who wanted to snoop, etc.  It's all about the official looking name badge. 
#9 - January 26, 2012, 04:04 PM
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If you google "job description hospital teen volunteers" you'll get a number of hits.

Even if the volunteer is doing something really mundane, you have a lot of potential for stuff to happen. You never know what you might walk into. One evening I was taking water into a patient's room, and when I entered, I knew right away he was in full cardiac arrest even though I'd never seen it before.  I was so scared.

#10 - January 26, 2012, 05:21 PM
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Thank you, this information is helpful. Would you have a locker to keep your things in or would they be left in  an office or nurses' station?
#11 - January 30, 2012, 08:06 AM
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