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It is a cup of coffee delivered to a family member in the surgery waiting area. It could be a smile from a nurse at the end of their shift. It may even be a completely different view of what a hospital is really like.

These are the moments and experiences gained during a summer spent at Lovelace hospitals as a junior volunteer. Yes, there are the daily tasks of paperwork, answering phones and running errands throughout the departments. However, more times than not, Lovelace junior volunteers spend their day giving of their time and gaining a completely different perspective of the job.

Jessica Mercer, 16 and an incoming senior at Sandia High School, volunteers on the fourth floor of Lovelace Medical Center in the Intermediate Care Unit. She sits in the hub of activity on the floor, helping with call lights, communicating with nurses and staff, as well as answering phone calls.

“I learned that I can multitask and that I can take care of people,” Mercer shares of her invaluable experience as a volunteer. 

Her time spent volunteering is not only helping the functions of the hospitals, but an opportunity to explore her career path. 

“I am maybe interested in health care as a career,” Mercer explains. “I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be a nurse, so I thought volunteering here would be a good way to find out more. I enjoy being around people and knowing I made a difference in someone’s life.”

When your payment comes in the form of patients’ smiles, you know you’ve found the right place to invest your time volunteering at Lovelace. Josh Pacheco, 17 and incoming senior at Cibola High School, has found the perfect place at the coffee cart at Lovelace Westside Hospital. “You are giving up part of your day to make someone else’s day better,” Pacheco says of volunteering. “You don’t have to get paid for that. It just feels good to put smiles on people’s faces.”

Pacheco wants to help people feel better because he knows what they might be going through.  Pacheco’s grandfather recently died from lung cancer. That experience of losing a loved one to cancer inspires him to explore a career in pulmonology.  “I feel like I can help with that in the future,” he adds. 

For those whose experiences may make them think hospitals are scary, Pacheco says this experience as a volunteer has completely changed his perspective. “When my friends think of hospitals, it scares them. They don’t like hospitals. It can be scary for people. But this hospital is warm and friendly.”

Cleaning dishes, helping with food deliveries and handling various customer service requests are 16-year-old Kevin Omidvaran’s way making a difference in the community. “I want to help better humanity,” the incoming junior at Cibola High School explains of his decision to volunteer at Lovelace Westside Hospital.  “The majority of a teen’s summer, we just sit around,” he adds. “Youth can give back more than we do right now. I can lead by example.”

One of the perks for volunteering at Lovelace, Omidvaran shares, is the family environment. His duties around the hospital not only serve a function in improving the patient experience, they also give him an opportunity to be a part of Lovelace. For today, that means building relationships with coworkers, patients and their families; for tomorrow, it means building a future.  “Yes, I have an interest in health care,” Omidvaran shares. “I kind of want to be a hospital pharmacist.”

Patients, families and visitors walk through the doors at Lovelace for a variety of reasons. They may be here to welcome a new baby or they may be here to support a loved one going through cancer treatment. Carolina Quiroz, 15 and incoming junior at Cibola High School, sees new faces every day at the Welcome Center at Lovelace Westside Hospital. “I like the Welcome Center because we’re open and I talk to people,” Quiroz shares of her choice to volunteer at Lovelace. “You get to meet new people every day. You get to make someone’s day better. We walk people to where they want to go, not just give them directions. They’re thankful because they don’t get lost. They always say, `Wow, no one does this!’”

Quiroz’s interest in helping the people who walk through the doors at Lovelace Westside Hospital began a long time ago when she decided she wanted to go into medicine. Getting this hands-on experience volunteering at Lovelace has give Quiroz added insight into a possible future career. “I want to go into general surgery,” she says. “It seems interesting to me and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”

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