SHN Birchmount hospital volunteer shares how the job has inspired big changes at school and home.

Last month, we began welcoming a small number of volunteers back into Scarborough Health Nework (SHN), beginning with our Birchmount hospital. Among the first reintroduced were student volunteers, who have resumed their vital roles as wayfinders and information booth support.

We had a chance to speak with Alice, a student volunteer, about her experience at SHN and how it’s impacted her life as a high school student in Scarborough.

Let’s start off big picture. Why do you volunteer with SHN?
I want to become a nurse, so it’s important to me to become familiar with the work environment. I think it’s a combination of growing my knowledge and experience, making new friends and building connections. And personally, I want to give back to the community I live in. 

It seems as though it’s given you so many benefits. Was it difficult not being able to come in during the start of the pandemic?
It was a hard time for everyone! I felt for the frontline workers especially, because everyone needed the extra help. While it was difficult, I’m glad that they kept us volunteers at home to keep everyone safe.

That’s a great perspective. Now that volunteers are returning, how does it feel to be back in the hospital?
It feels great! It’s nice to know we’re back and can relieve some of the pressure felt by the frontline. I’ve also been able to reconnect with the staff and the other volunteers. I’ve missed them! Birchmount hospital feels like a second home, so I’m glad to be back.

Missing that connection must have been difficult. So now that you’ve returned, what’s different about your role now? Other than wearing a mask, right?
Right! The masks of course, but overall, there isn’t too much of a difference. I did have to switch to another department. I was in day surgery before COVID-19 took over, and now I’m at the information desk and gift shop. I also needed some additional training.

Training is important for new roles, especially with new safety measures!
I know! Personal protective equipment (PPE) is only one side of it. Keeping everything clean is super important. When I’m at the information desk, we have to sanitize the whole area; speakers, computers, phones. When I’m in the gift shop, we advise no more than three customers in the store and we sanitize the counter before and after transactions. We also encourage customers to sanitize before coming in. There are just added layers to the role and responsibilities.

It sounds like you’ve learned a lot from your volunteering experience!
Oh definitely! I’d say my top three lessons have been related to time management, responsibility and self-confidence. Before volunteering, I was a shy person. The staff and volunteers really helped bring me out of my shell and build up my self-confidence. It’s helped me in my day-to-day school life and helped with making friends. It’s also really helped me normalize scheduling. I manage my time better and complete tasks because staff put their trust in me that I’ll do what needs to be done.

That’s awesome! It sounds like volunteering has had a personal impact on you.
It really has. I mean, I’ve walked into my shift and I could see the smiles of the nurses when they see me coming in. You can see the relief in their eyes when I’m there to handle the jobs they’re too busy to do. It’s a really great feeling.

So Alice, I have to ask. Would you encourage others to volunteer with SHN?
Absolutely! The atmosphere and community is amazing. It’s easy to make friends and the staff are easy to talk to. Specifically, if you want to have a future working in health care, I think the experience is great. Plus, you can get your volunteer hours for high school and you’re helping frontline workers. It’s a great cause and you get to give back to our wonderful community.

Through their generous gift of time, skills, and talents, SHN volunteers help with patient care and clinical services, administrative work and raising crucial funds to support the hospital.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, visit our Volunteer Services page.