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Young volunteer's experience at WellStar WGMC brings her full circle after mom's illness

Wed, August 9, 2017

Young volunteer's experience at WellStar WGMC brings her full circle after mom's illness

Anna Barintine’s mom has worked at WellStar West Georgia Medical Center for as long as Anna can remember.

So when Anna turned 14 this year, it was a natural choice for the Troup High School rising freshman to volunteer through the hospital’s summer VolunTeen program.

It was a choice that brought her full circle, back to a time seven years ago when she would tag along with her mother, Belinda Barintine, to the hospital—not to her office in Medical Records, but to the Ambulatory Infusion department, where her mother would sit for hours at a time to receive chemotherapy treatments for stage I breast cancer.

“I remember coming with her when I was 7 or 8 almost every day, usually right before we went to Girl Scouts,” Anna said.  “When they asked me this year if I would volunteer once a week in Ambulatory Infusion, it’s something I didn’t have to think twice about.

“It’s very familiar to me, and I feel very connected there because it’s where my mom and I went through a lot together.”

Anna began her summer first volunteering one day at week at Florence Hand Home, where she delivered mail and ran other errands at the nursing home.

“My main job  was really to talk with residents there, spend time with them and keep them company,” she said.

She soon began volunteering a second day each week at Florence Hand Home and added a third day in the Ambulatory Infusion Department.

From her experience with her mother’s chemo treatments, she knew the right questions to ask: “Can I get you a blanket?” or “How about something to eat or drink?”

“I loved getting to see different people come in and get to know their personalities,” she said. “There’s one lady who is retired who comes in, and every time she comes, her best friend she’s had since elementary school comes with her. Their friendship has really made an impression on me.”

This summer, 57 area youth volunteered 1,600 hours at WGMC through the VolunTeen program, formerly known as the Junior Volunteer program, said Jean Lewis, director of volunteer services.

“It’s a wonderful experience for young people interested in the healthcare field,” Lewis said. “And even if they don’t have aspirations of going into healthcare, it gives them a chance to interact with people from all walks of life and learn valuable workplace skills.”

Lewis said the program is open each June and July to 14-to-17-year-olds. They work in areas of the hospital such as the call room, nursing homes, central supply, customer service, wayfinding, patient transport and many other areas.

“My older sister is about to go to college to become a nurse, but I’m not sure yet if I’m going into the healthcare field,” Anna said. “But I recommend volunteering for anyone around my age because it teaches you to put yourself out there and interact with other people. Volunteering here helps you learn how you should treat others.”

The VolunTeen program is an extension of the WGMC Auxiliary. The Auxiliary is a volunteer program for adults that is an integral part of operations at WGMC and its two nursing homes, Twin Fountains Home and Florence Hand Home. About 75 adults currently serve as volunteers and log collectively about 17,000 hours a year.

“Volunteers are a vital part of the West Georgia Medical Center community,” Lewis said. “Whether reassuring an apprehensive patient, sharing hope to a worried visitor, delivering and reading mail to nursing home residents, ringing up sales in the gift shop, or serving as a liaison between families and caregivers in the ICU, every role makes a large impact on the experience our community has at WGMC.”

Youth interested in the 2018 summer program, or adults interested in the year-round program, may email Lewis at lewisjea@wghealth.org or call (706) 845-3965. An adult online volunteer application and medical release form can be accessed at wellstar.org by searching “WellStar volunteer overview” in the top right corner of the home page.