Candy stripers learn about medical profession

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 20, 2001


PHOTO: A group of local girls are volunteering their precious summer hours as candy stripers at River Parishes Hospital in LaPlace. Front row, from left, are Christa Schexnayder, Melissa Spranley and Meghan Scuderi. Back row, from left, are Shawntae Revels and Jamie Skelton. (Staff Photo by Amy Szpara) LAPLACE – While most teen-agers are still in bed sleeping, taking an opportunity to rest up before school starts back in August, a handful of 15-year-old area high school students are wide-eyed, dressed in red-and-white stripes and putting in their time as volunteers at the local hospital this summer. The life of a candy striper can sometimes involve very menial work, but the girls who work at River Parishes Hospital in LaPlace say they are getting good experience that will help them with their future careers, while having fun at the same time. Christa Schexnayder, Melissa Spranley, Meghan Scuderi, Shawntae Revels and Jamie Skelton all chose to spend their summers volunteering at the hospital, starting this month and ending at the start of August. The two-month program offers them school credit, as well as a chance to get their feet wet in the medical world. Schexnayder, who plans to be a chef someday, was not interested in medicine until she started candy striping. But now she is starting to give some thought to physical therapy. “It gives me something to do this summer,” she said about the program. She spends her volunteer time working in purchasing, outpatient services and surgery. Though her contact with patients is limited, she does answer their calls and help them get comfortable. “It’s fun,” she said. Spranley does have aspirations of working in the medical field. She plans to be a pediatrician, and spends her days working in a doctor’s office and in surgery. She brings patients in and out of the area they enter before the operating room, where they fill out paperwork. “Just getting to know how to do stuff is fun,” she said. Skelton, who wants to be a licensed practitioner nurse, said that she joined the program because she wants to spend time learning as much as she can about the medical world. She puts in about 40 hours per week because she told administration that she could work as often as they needed her. Her mother, a nursing assistant, also works at the hospital. “I’ve learned a lot, what goes on in a hospital,” she said. “It’s very educational. Now when I go back to school and am in science, I’ll be able to answer more questions.” Scuderi said she wanted to be a candy striper so that she could test out how she likes working in a hospital. “I’ve been thinking about it,” she said of a medical profession. “It’s unbelievably fun. Although I’m doing a lot of filing and taking messages sometimes, I have an amazing time everytime I come.” Scuderi said that she has also enjoyed working with the staff, technicians and doctors. “They never run out of stories. It’s great information, getting stories and their experiences,” she said. “I’m just looking around, seeing what people have to say and what they think about it here.” After coming in and signing in, Scuderi said candy-stripers have to report to the office and wait for someone to tell them to do something. “We answer phones and call lights,” she said, adding that the call lights are calls from patients needing assistance. Revels has known for a while that she wants to be a pediatrician, and she said that she loves working with babies. “I’m learning a lot about being a pediatrician. I’m learning how to tell what’s hurting children. Three- and 4-year-olds can tell you where it hurts, but with babies you have to find other ways,” she said. Working in physical therapy has been exciting for Revels. She said the staff quizzes her, and she also gets to meet interesting patients. “I met a patient who worked in the nursing field. She told me how to handle people who are hurting,” Revels said. Physical therapist Marcie Lake is someone at the hospital who Revels said she looks up to. “She is a good director. She makes you want to put a smile on your face,” Revels said. All five girls said that they have been enjoying their volunteer work at the hospital, and all of them said that they would not mind doing it again next summer.