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One teenager has seen a patient walk again after months of physical therapy to strengthen the patient’s legs.

Another watched a woman give birth following hours of labor.

About 20 teenagers volunteer each year at Johnson Memorial Hospital. They change sheets, sterilize rooms in the surgery and emergency areas, warm blankets for patients and sometimes watch basic medical procedures.

The hospital’s teen volunteers save time for the nurses and help the hospital run a bit more smoothly, volunteer coordinator Ann Cook said. For teens, the five to 10 hours spent in the hospital per week is one of the first steps in a career path.

Spending hours volunteering in physical therapy convinced Paul Woodworth that the occupation was for him before he spent thousands of dollars on a college degree.

The recent Indian Creek High School graduate will study physical therapy and athletic training at University of Indianapolis in the fall. A year volunteering in the physical therapy ward at the hospital helped him cement his career path, he said.

The former swimmer had to stop the sport after he failed a school physical because of hip problems. His experience with his own physical therapist prompted him to switch his volunteer time at the hospital from emptying trash cans in rooms to being in the physical therapy department.

“I started thinking to myself, ‘This is what I want to do,’” Woodworth said.

Allowing volunteers to get a glimpse of a medical career is one reason the hospital takes teen volunteers, Cook said.

Only 20 teens are allowed to volunteer. Cook keeps the number down so the teens will have the most hands-on experience and get more volunteer hours.

“The ones that are here have a more fulfilling experience,” she said.

Just a few weeks into volunteering, a teen considering becoming a gynecologist saw a woman give birth.

Micaela Lovins volunteers in the maternity area. Typically, the Indian Creek freshman-to-be assists nurses in nonmedical tasks. Sometimes, she pushes a new mom and her baby to the hospital lobby in a wheelchair on their way home or watches a baby just minutes old go through the first examination.

When a woman is in labor, if the mother says OK, she can watch a baby being born.

Those are experiences Lovins couldn’t get anywhere else, she said.

“I am just trying to learn as much as I can here,” she said. “Most 14-year-olds don’t get to see that kind of stuff.”

Their experiences are also a way to give back to the community, Woodworth said.

He works part time at the Legends Golf Club selling golf balls at the driving range and has been a 4-H’er and Boy Scout. Hospital work brings him another perspective.

“I need to have balance. Volunteering brings balance to my life,” he said.

If volunteers weren’t in the hospital doing nonmedical tasks, nurses would have to do them, Cook said. Nurses would then have less time to spend with patients, she said.

“(They) are just a great help to the nursing staff,” she said. “In a lot of the places, we just wouldn’t have our staff filled.”

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