Summer volunteer job helps teen chase bigger dreams

At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much remotely related between a teenager’s ambition to work in forensic nursing and her volunteer role in the Mom/Baby Unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital-North.

But, Sherika Edwards has a plan, and her volunteer stint at the hospital in Lutz figures into it.

The 17-year-old, from Lutz, said she’s always been interested in criminal justice and that other members of her family work in medical careers.

Sherika Edwards spent part of her summer vacation working as a volunteer at St. Joseph’s Hospital-North. She aspires to become a forensic nurse and said having the opportunity to work at a medical facility while she is still in high school was a valuable experience.
(B.C. Manion)

So, the idea of becoming a forensic nurse and tracing evidence to help bring justice to the victims of crime makes perfect sense to Edwards, entering her senior year at Steinbrenner High School.

She said she eagerly signed on when she had the chance to become a volunteer at the hospital, which enabled her to get some exposure to the life that goes on inside of a medical facility.

She wrapped up her summer commitment last week.

During her volunteer stint, she handled a variety of chores.

She answered call lights to find out what patients needed. Sometimes, they just wanted a snack, or a cup of juice or ice, which Edwards would get for them.

She also helped to organize file cabinets and to assemble information folders for patients at the hospital to deliver babies, or to have surgical procedures, Edwards said.

The types of information the patient receives depends on their needs, she explained.

Edwards also helped put together kits containing supplies that a patient might need.

One of the highpoints during her volunteer time at the hospital was having the opportunity to witness a live birth, she said.

Edwards said she was happy to pitch in.

“I like being able to help out the nurses with simple tasks,” she said.

Over the course of the summer Edwards earned 72 volunteer hours toward the community service hours she needs for the Bright Futures Scholarship Program.

In addition to getting exposure to the variety of jobs that are done within the hospital, the volunteer work gives the youths a chance to be mentored by adults, said Tiffany Scalone, Media Relations Coordinator for St. Joseph’s Hospitals BayCare Health System.

“They’re learning about responsibility, commitment, things like that, as well,” Scalone said.

Edwards was among 21 participants at the hospital’s Volunteen program at St. Joseph’s Hospital–North over the summer. The program on that campus is open only to children of hospital employees at this point, but is expected to be expanded in the future, Scalone said.

Edwards’ mom, Dian Creighton, is a patient care technician in the medical/surgical unit at the hospital in Lutz.

The teen volunteers are well-received by patients and staff, Scalone said.

“All of the team members and the patients just love the Volunteens. They love the energy that they bring, and just the unique perspective that they have. Being fresh and go-getters,” Scalone said.

Edwards said she’s glad she did the volunteer work.

“I think it’s a good opportunity, especially if you want to be in the medical field,” said the young woman, who has not yet decided where she will study nursing.

Published August 8, 2018

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