Hospital Volunteer Talks About Her “Six Figure Paycheck”

Nicole McAmis moved to St. Louis from Ventura, California to attend Washington University. She chose chemical engineering as her major, and is planning to one day attend medical school. As a freshman, she began volunteering at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Now a junior in college, Nicole has been working with patients  for more than two years. When asked what this experience has taught her, she answered, “Children have the ability to teach adults to be spontaneous, be courageous, make mistakes, and most of all, approach life with enthusiasm.” 

One day at St. Louis Children’s Hospital a father approached me and asked me why I volunteer. I quickly answered, “I do it for the kids.” And with that answer, he told me, “Thank you for making each day just a little bit better.” It is amazing how the little things in life can make such an impact on someone else. Even a smile is enough to brighten a child’s day. After all, someone once said, “Volunteers are paid in six figures… S-M-I-L-E-S.”

In the hospital, I have volunteered in many different areas including the school room, Project Picasso, the play room, Hematology-Oncology Clinic, and Family Resource Center. In the school room, I am able to tutor kids that are patients in the hospital and try to add a sense of normalcy to their day. During Project Picasso, we use art in order to help improve the patient’s stay and help their attitude toward the situation at hand. It is always a huge hit when we paint rocks for the garden! The play room is a place where patients are able to play different games with volunteers and just have fun for a while. The Hematology-Oncology clinic is a great place where you can play with a patient to get their mind off the different procedures they are enduring. In the Family Resource Center, we provide information to parents of different diagnoses as well as a place where a parent can access movies for their child to help them get through the tough time.

My Children’s Hospital experience gives me the opportunity to see how doctors and nurses interact with patients and how doctors are always striving to find the cure for any diagnosis. With such amazing doctors always at hand, Children’s is always a very prominent place in the medical field, providing care for people from outside the country as well. As a volunteer, we strive to make their experience at the hospital the best it can be. It is amazing the amount of impact a volunteer can have in a very busy hospital environment, even if it is just playing a game with a child and allowing the parents to go out for coffee.

nicolecollageWhile the amount of volunteering time is often limited by school or other activities, those who can give time make all the difference in the world. It makes that time irreplaceable and priceless for that patient who may not be going through the best time of their life. As a volunteer, you learn that compassion is the key to everything since you do not necessarily know what the patient is going through. You have not walked in their shoes to know. But you do get the opportunity to walk with them and make a difference, even if it is small, in that patient’s day. Volunteers are given the greatest gift, the chance to choose and change the kind of community we live in.

This blog was originally posted on From the Bedside.