Special to the Journal
TUPELO – Katy Franks leads a patient and his wife into a pre-operation room in Short Stay Surgery at North Mississippi Medical Center. After the patient changes into a gown, Franks returns to go over the basic pre- and post-operation routines, as well as answer any questions.
While not typical responsibilities for a junior in high school, Franks has done this dozens of times. She transports the gentleman to surgery and escorts his wife to the waiting room.
Then she readies another room for the next patient, making sure the room has all the necessary supplies, clean sheets and gowns neatly folded. She welcomes the patient and repeats the process.
Franks has no medical training, but she does have a strong desire to help others and learn about medicine. She and other rising sophomores, juniors and seniors spend much of their summer volunteering through NMMC’s student volunteer program. From June 2 through July 11, students will devote two half-days each week to volunteering at NMMC facilities in Tupelo, Pontotoc and Baldwyn. The program is intended to help students broaden their knowledge of the medical field while making a difference in their community.
“This program exposes students to careers,” says Carla Enis, NMMC’s director of Volunteer Services. “Our hospital is so large that there’s a whole lot more than just being a nurse or a doctor in our organization. It exposes students to careers that they may not even think about.”
Franks has an interest in dermatology but was intrigued by what she learned in Short Stay Surgery.
“I was just really happy with the program because I was able to interact with the patients and talk to the doctors,” she said. “I was glad that I got to experience different options than what I had originally wanted.”
While patients do not perform direct patient care, they are exposed to a vast array of health professions. “The intent of the program is not for students to watch surgeries or have hands-on experience with the patients; it’s for them to do some real service within their community,” Enis said. “They will get a real-life perspective as to what the doctors do on their daily rounds with patients.”
Enis feels many students use this opportunity for personal growth and development.
“A lot of students come to me saying that they needed something to crack them out of their shell,” she said. “I’m happy to report those volunteers are now doing very well in college and in their careers.”
“When I first started I was intimidated and the first day was a little scary, but after being there a little while it’s not bad,” says Franks. “I really enjoyed interacting with the patients and the doctors. Before this program I was shy, and I wasn’t confident approaching adults. Through this program it taught me it’s OK to go out and talk to people.”
For some, this is their first job opportunity.
“Many of these students haven’t had a job before, and it’s an introduction to having a committed relationship for the summer with a lot of responsibility.” Enis said.
Even the application process is a learning experience, complete with what many students fear most – an interview.
“We try to make it as painless as possible, but it’s necessary. It’s just a way for us to sit down and get to know you a little bit,” she said. “We will help you get through it.”
Many past volunteers have gone on to rewarding careers in health care.
“We have hired many former student volunteers. We have some who are nurses, physical therapists, several at the Baldwyn Nursing Facility, and three in medical school right now,” she said. “I see someone almost every week that was once a student volunteer.”
It looks as if Franks may follow that course. She hopes to attend medical school and focus on dermatology as a specialty.
“I really enjoyed the program last year,” Franks said. “I’d recommend it to anyone. If I hadn’t done the program I’d be at home doing nothing, so it was nice to have some responsibility and do something in the real world.”