Every year, more than 800 CHOC volunteers provide nearly 100,000 hours of service. They pursue volunteerism for different reasons, but they all donate their time to help CHOC provide the very best pediatric services in Orange County. Some are retired community members looking to give back, and others, like Brianna, come in as high school students seeking new experiences.
Brianna started volunteering at CHOC when she was just 16 years old. She needed to complete volunteer hours as part of a school project and having grown up in Orange, she thought CHOC would be a worthy place to donate her time. Back then, she didn’t know what her eventual career path would look like. Due to her customer service experience as well as her bubbly and warm personality, she was placed as a customer service ambassador. That placement would eventually inspire her to become a registered nurse at CHOC.
“We could tell she loved working with kids and families,” says Sandra Schultz, customer service manager at CHOC. “She was a comforting presence in what can be a scary and stressful time. Her good energy was contagious, and she loved our mission statement- to nurture, advance and protect the health and well-being of children.”
She was tasked with enhancing the CHOC patient experience by visiting patients and families to welcome them upon admittance and ensure that their non-medical needs were being met. If a need were identified, she helped facilitate a solution by providing time-sensitive and compassionate communications with the appropriate CHOC department.
Sometimes the opportunity to help a family was as small as getting a parent a glass of water.
“As a nurse now, I know that it’s the little things that matter,” Brianna says.
Her ambassador role allowed to her see a variety of environments in the hospital, which sparked her interest in nursing, particularly the pediatric intensive care unit.
“It was the most complex I’d ever seen medicine before,” she says. “But I felt like those kids were the ones I was supposed to be with, the kids who were having some of the hardest days of their entire lives.”
As a volunteer, Brianna was an avid learner and wanted to learn about every department inside the hospital. That passion for learning helped propel her through challenging coursework in nursing school, and eased her transition from volunteer to nurse when she came back to CHOC.
During stressful moments in a crucial unit of the hospital, Brianna relies on lessons she learned during her customer service volunteer days at CHOC.
“It’s important to be able to take a step back mentally when things get stressful. I’ve learned to remember where we are, what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” she says.
Even after she transitioned into a nursing role, Brianna remains a part of the customer service family at CHOC. Her former colleagues-turned lifelong friends surprised her in the PICU on her birthday with a card and gift, and they celebrated her nursing school graduation right alongside her family. Every year the group reunites to participate in CHOC Walk in the Park.