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Island Health youth volunteers step up to gain valuable experience

More than 200 teenage volunteers visited with 5,600 patients and residents
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Just a few of the more than 200 Step Up Youth volunteers in Island Health’s 2022-23 program. (Courtesy Island Health)

Island Health’s Step Up Youth volunteers are looking back over their time in the program with fond memories and new skills that will help them in their future careers.

This was the first year back in-person for volunteers, after a pandemic hiatus. The program allows youth between the ages of 15 and 18 to gain experience in healthcare through online learning modules, guest speaker presentations and active participation in volunteer roles. More than 200 teens started the program last fall, supporting eight different acute care hospitals and long-term care sites from Greater Victoria to Port Hardy, including several remote locations.

“This unique program offers high school students a fantastic opportunity to volunteer and learn about clinical and non-clinical careers in healthcare. They gain valuable experience sharing ideas and leading projects, as well as gain an exciting entry point into a rewarding career in healthcare,” said Minister of Health Adrian Dix in a statement.

Step Up Youth volunteers visited with more than 5,600 patients and residents, provided 23 hours of musical entertainment and helped with almost 35 hours of activities for residents in long-term care between September 2022 and April.

“Our Step Up Youth volunteers have shown incredible courage and initiative in re-entering our healthcare facilities through the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kathy MacNeil, Island Health president and CEO, in the same statement.

A Victoria-based volunteer said the program is full of meaningful and diverse interactions, while a volunteer at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital said it taught her new ways to hold conversations and create bonds with patients.

Most volunteers reported they felt more confident and compassionate by the end of the program and many noticed improvements in their social skills.

Along with teaching valuable life skills, the program also serves as a recruitment and retention initiative for Island Health. When surveyed, 92 per cent of the youth volunteers said they were interested in pursuing a career in healthcare.

Applications are now open – with a July 15 deadline – for the 2023-24 program at 12 Island Health facilities. For more information, including locations and requirements, go to islandhealth.ca/step-up-youth or email stepupyouth@islandhealth.ca.

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