Here's what volunteering at a hospital is really like. And why you should do it.
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Clorox

Have you ever considered volunteering at a hospital? It's an important job that's often overlooked.

Photo by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade via WikiCommons.

When you think about the work done at hospitals and other care facilities, visions of doctors and nurses are probably first to come to mind. While these healthcare professionals do some of the most important work on the planet (and that's no overstatement), volunteers are an integral part of the hospital's ecosystem as well.


Volunteers greet visitors, run groups, provide support to patients, wash and change linens, clean rooms, restock supplies and help ensure that the hospital is running cleanly and smoothly so that those providing medical care can focus on the patient's physical health and continued well-being.

In short, volunteers are vital. They form real and lasting connections with patients, and help them get better in a clean, comforting environment.

We talked to three people to get their take on what it's like to work in care facilities, the challenges they've faced, and what the work they did taught them about themselves (and it taught them a lot). Read on to find out more.

Alia read to kids at her local hospital. It made her realize the difference a bedtime story could make.

Photo by Juhan Sonin via Flickr.

When she gave birth at 17, Alia was grateful that her child was strong and healthy. At the same time, she realized that other new parents weren't living that same experience.

"The idea that other families didn't have that really pained me," she writes in an email. I wanted to help them."

Alia would put her son to bed and then, when he was asleep and safely being looked after, drive to Fresno Children's Hospital, where she'd read bedtime stories to children who didn't have company and couldn't sleep at night. She expected the work to make her emotional, but was not at all prepared for the impact it ended up having on her.

"I would cry in my car after all of my shifts," she explains. "I wasn't equipped for the emotional weight of children with poor health. I have the utmost respect for people who can bear that weight comfortably."

It also taught her just how needed volunteers are. They're the people who fill in the gaps in care, fostering close connections with patients who are going through some of the hardest days and nights of their lives.

"I wish people knew how much need there is," she writes. "Walking those empty halls at night, you look into rooms and see people who are scared, lonely, and bored. A few more people in the hall making their way to connect with patients is a huge difference."

"I found the experience rewarding in a lot of capacities. The largest is probably the degree to which it taught me about myself. I valued my son and his health so much. I learned about my emotional limits. And I felt good because I was helping others."

Author Chuck Miceli helped people living in a long-term care facilities express themselves.

Photo by Elien Dumon on Unsplash

He co-coordinated a weekly Poetry group for patients and residents at the Southington Care Center, a rehabilitation and health care facility in Southington Connecticut.

In the group, the residents of the center were encouraged to write and share their own poetry, bring in poems that they enjoyed by their favorite authors, or just sit and listen to the work written by people who also lived there. For many, it was a watershed moment in their recovery. It provided a sense of purpose for one resident in particular — allowing her to see that she was still valued and needed.

"A friend of mine approached me to say that a mutual friend from our church, Joan LaRose, was at the facility," Chuck writes. "I hadn't seen her in years. Now, she was suffering from advanced Parkinson's disease and could not lift her head from her chest, but she still expended the time and effort to write poetry."

"I visited Joan and asked to see her poems. Rather than being bitter or remorseful, they were exceptionally uplifting and beautiful. That motivated me to see if others at the facility might also want to get involved, which prompted the creation of the poetry group."

The group eventually grew and Joan's poems were collected and published in a book that keeps her memory alive. The poetry group is something Chuck reflects on as one of the most positive experiences of his life. It's a reminder of the indomitableness of the human spirit.

"Walking into a nursing or health care facilities can be an intimidating and depressing experience because it is so easy to assume the hopelessness of people's situations," he explains. "It is easy to see what is missing: the physicality, the youthfulness, the mobility, the energy. It is what we don't see, however, that is most important: the potential, the desire to be useful, the lifetime of experience and wisdom, the yearning to be involved."

"Tapping into what's possible instead of being debilitated by what's missing is at once the greatest challenge and the greatest reward."

Jeaninne Escallier Kato, a teacher and writer, volunteered at hospitals during two points in her life. It taught her to think on her feet and let go of her ego.

Photo by Lenny DiFranza via Flickr.

"I have volunteered in hospitals twice in my life," notes Jeaninne. "My volunteer duties included: distributing food and books, feeding patients, teaching and reading to children, managing the play room and holding babies."

"It is all about patient care and compassion. When I was given the task to teach a bedridden child with extreme mental disabilities, I didn't feel like I could handle my emotions. Over time, I let my compassionate nature take over and began to feel the bonds of a strong relationship. That child was so appreciative of my time and attention once a week for three hours, I couldn't wait to get my Saturday hug."

"There's nothing like the feeling of making others comfortable and giving relief. It's another form of love. My advice to those who are considering this line of work is you have to take your ego out of everything because you will be asked to do some very disagreeable tasks."

"Don't do it for you, do it for others. You will soon learn your merit, which resides in the care and love you give freely, because it always comes back two-fold."

Caring for others in need is something we should all make more of an effort to focus on.

Providing comfort to those going through medical difficulties is one of the best ways to help make the world, a brighter, safer, happier place.

So, if you've been thinking of volunteering at a hospital, but had reservation, now might be the time to reconsider. You have no idea how much your efforts will mean to the patients you meet.

Clorox is committed to providing a gentle yet powerful clean, which is why they've partnered with Upworthy to promote those same traits in people, actions and ideas. Cleaning up and strength are important aspects of many of our social good stories. Check out the rest in the campaign to read more.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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