The Most Meaningful Work
Julia Stone spent last summer volunteering in the Emergency Department of Rochester General Hospital. She worked a lot with patients, doing everything from bringing them food, blankets, and pillows to keeping them company if they were lonely and answering their questions. She would wheelchair patients to various locations around the hospital and answer their call lights to the best of her ability. On top of all that she would stock and organize the fridges, keep the cups/utensils stocked, as well as keep the blanket warmer stocked.
This was a great experience for Julia in more ways than one. Since she is a pre-med student, it helped her see a different side of how hospitals work. She was glad to could contribute in even the simplest ways to make the whole process run more smoothly.
For example, one of the doctors in the Emergency Department thanked her for keeping the fridges so organized and full: it not only helped them when they needed a cold beverage, but when their patients asked for something, the staff would know exactly where to find it. She realized that “filling fridges didn’t initially seem to me as something all that important, but I realized that important civic engagement can take on many forms!”
Working so closely with the patents was very special to Julia. Often, nurses and doctors are too busy to comfort their patients so she was able to talk to them if they were lonely and provide them with the emotional support they needed.
Reflecting on her experiences, Julia now understands that civic engagement is less about what you do and the emphasis is placed on how you engage with those receiving your help. The most meaningful part of her daily activity was just talking to patients and being someone they can lean on or be distracted by. One of the patients even looked her up on Facebook to message and tell me how much talking to me helped him through his hospital stay.
Going forward, she will seek out volunteer experiences in which she can work closely with the recipients of her help instead of just doing projects from a distance. That is where the most meaningful and impactful work takes place!