2023 Junior Volunteer Award Winners

Explore the Winners below

We asked the Junior Volunteers to reflect on their experience at the hospital over the summer. They were asked to answer the prompt: "Healthcare is..." Below are the top three winners.

Thank you to all the Junior Volunteers who submitted their work and shared their stories. 

Dear Grandma, 

It’s been 198 days  
since we left you in the hospital. 

I would like to say  
that I was confident walking in, 

but I cannot 
because I was not prepared. 

I couldn’t help but notice the  
sorrowful complexions  
of the other patients  
as my family and I walked in 
to see you.  

We had only come to see you,  
but when I left, 
I felt like I had done everything  
but that. 

I can’t quite pinpoint 
what the atmosphere felt like before 
but the shift when my family and I walked in 
The faces of the other patients  
Blankly drifting their eyes towards us  
I saw a bit of hope in them 
But it was fleeting. We weren’t 
the people  
they were hoping 
to see. 

And then I saw your face 
Gently molded 
Wrinkles curving around your mouth 
To fit a beautiful smile. 
You were always smiling 
until the very end.  

I’m sorry we left you. 
We didn’t mean to  
never come back. 
We just didn’t want to break it to you, 
remind you that your children 
lived 2,649 miles 
from where you were.  
I’m sorry that you were 
looking forward to us  
coming back that noon. But I don’t think 
It mattered much  
because I knew that by the hour 
you would’ve forgotten that we met. 

is a nasty thing. 

Abandoning your loved ones 
is a nasty thing. 

The patients in that hospital 
never received visitors.  
I can’t imagine  
the fleeting hope  
they felt  
everytime those doors 
I can’t imagine 
the endless cycle of anxiousness 
waiting for someone, anyone- 
It’s been years,  
yet still, no one has come? 

you may not understand, 
you are the reason I decided 
to pursue healthcare. 
the patients in the hospital, 
the race for empathy- 
that is why I am here now. 

For the past three weeks, 
I’ve done what I hoped to do 
the day that I saw you again. 
I’ve met with patients, 
talked to patients, 
connected with patients. 
I’ve build relationships with 
I’ve seen firsthand what it means 
To give empathy, 
like you inspired me to do. 
I think that you would be proud of me,  
if you were here right now. 

I believe that healthcare 
Isn’t just fixing broken parts 
It’s much deeper than that. 
Healthcare is restoring relationships 
Healthcare is building confidence 
Healthcare is showing someone 
that they are cared for. 

I’ve never been sure  
what field of healthcare I wanted to go into.  
But I enjoy working with patients, 
and I enjoy giving them something to look forward to. 
I’ll continue working hard 
So I can show you my new understanding 
The next time I meet you. 

These three pictures are connected by the springs that hold each other up, representing how all of them are connected through resilience. The color of the springs, green, show connection as these pictures are all connected by resilience. Resilience, defined by Merriam Webster dictionary is, “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”; for this reason I used springs to represent resilience as they bounce back easily from being pressed down. In the top picture, I drew myself smiling as I introduced myself to the patient, the lift to my name tag represents introducing myself. I drew myself doing this because it took resilience for me to introduce myself to different patients, as they all had different behaviors. I recovered easily from patients varying from smiling and understanding, to those who shouted at me and were in worse conditions (such as one who had cancer, and shouted at me to close the door). This is why there is the drama mask on the patient, to show that there were multiple patients I’ve met with different behaviors (smiling mask and the sad mask). The blue wallpaper also represents calmness, as I showed myself to be calm on the outside to the patient. The picture in the middle shows nurses connected by green springs, whilst helping a patient in the hospital bed. Again, the green springs mean connection and resilience. I made all the nurses connect with each other, and look similar to intend for them to be the same person doing different things. I did this because I wanted to show how hard nurses work to make their patient feel the utmost; as I remember shadowing Regina, she had told me that whatever the patient needs, no matter how small or trivial, she will always do it, to make the patient feel the best. For the nurses specifically, it shows resilience as they are ‘recovering’ from change, such as helping out the patient in different scenarios, like checking to see what they need, the iv pole and their medicine or additional information on the computer (which varies depending on what the patient needs). Since the patient does not have a face, it resembles the many patients a nurse would have to help, resilience is crucial as change is something that a nurse has to deal with for every patient.  

However they all do not have a face, including the patient, to resemble that it could be anyone in that situation, and most nurses are in the same shoes. The last picture shows a man with an iv pole and birthday balloon, while walking down the hospital hallway. This shows resilience as the birthday balloon represents the man’s hope in the midst of hardship, the hardship meaning his illness or whatever he faced to be put in the hospital. This hope is what kept him resilient, to whatever changes he had to face because of his illness. Him trudging down the hallway also represents hope, as the exit is near, both the balloon and him walking down shows that he ‘let go’ of his hardship. Again, this hope that helped him let go of his hardship, made him resilient as he recovered from change. I drew three different perspectives because healthcare is not only what the trained and licensed professionals provide, but volunteers and patients have to ‘provide’ as well. Providing as in an effort to restore or maintain physical, mental, or emotional well-being (Merriam Webster Dictionary), which is possible through resilience, recovering from misfortune or change.  

The world of healthcare is a blend of science and compassion, working together to heal and restore lives. The two interlace in a way that offers foundation and support within our society. It is said by Sentara itself, “we improve health every day,” and I am grateful to have been given the chance to see this blend foster an effective and beautiful environment. With that said, throughout my time I noticed healthcare is like a supportive relationship. 

During my first shift at the Emergency Department, I was quick to be overcome with so many emotions, primarily, anxiety and excitement. While I was not in a position where I could help patients directly, it felt awesome to see that I was able to help the nurses. My most frequent task was sanitizing and replenishing rooms after a patient's dismissal. The nurses' expression of gratitude held significant meaning for me, especially after seeing first hand how demanding their jobs are. The nurses move from room to room, conducting check-ups and treatments on patients and genuinely tending to their well-being. Within everything I saw and the conversations we had, I developed a meaningful understanding, appreciation, and relationship to them and their work. 

Healthcare is like a relationship because it requires trust, communication, and mutual understanding between patients and medical professionals to achieve the best outcomes and ensure health and wellness. Like an ecosystem, it relies on interconnected components working in harmony to maintain overall health and balance. Without a patient in need, a willing provider, science, and compassion there wouldn’t be the healthcare community we have today.