Hannah Pounds, a senior at Houston High School, distributes fresh linens as part of her volunteer duties as a TCMH youth ambassador.

The youth ambassadors program at Texas

County Memorial Hospital has been active for only one month, but

the 44 ambassadors involved have contributed more than 282 hours of

volunteer service.


The youth ambassadors program, which began

Dec. 9, was dreamed up by Toni McKinney, registration director at

TCMH and the liaison with the TCMH Auxiliary.

“There is a tremendous need for area youth

to obtain training in healthcare and to return to their communities

to work in healthcare,” McKinney said.

“mso-spacerun: yes;”> 

McKinney works with the youth ambassadors

to do hospital volunteer work in many departments, especially those

that provide direct patient care such as the obstetrics and medical

surgical departments.

The TCMH youth ambassadors include young

adults from Texas County and Mountain Grove, and the program is

limited to area college students and high school juniors and

seniors. Members of the current program were selected through an

application process. 

Wes Murray, chief executive officer at

TCMH, is glad to see that the ambassadors have a large interest and

high energy level for the program.

“I have noticed that the students involved

in this program have respect for healthcare and have a respectful

disposition about the work they do in the hospital,” Murray


Victoria Thompson of Mountain Grove has

seen two babies delivered since volunteering at TCMH.

“mso-spacerun: yes;”> 

“I can definitely see myself working in the

medical field,” she said.

Lilly Neal of Licking explained that

volunteering at TCMH has “finalized my decision to pursue a career

in healthcare.”

In the hospital’s obstetrics’ department,

youth ambassadors rock babies, greet patients and visitors, answer

the phone, take messages, respond to call lights and check on

patients to provide water or juice.

“My staff loves them,” said Belynda Boyd,

obstetrics director. “They help us take care of the little things

that make a patient’s experience even more special.”

Ambassadors typically volunteer in the late

afternoon and evening during the week and throughout the day and

early evening on Saturday and Sunday.

Boyd and Krista Elliott, medical surgical

department director, have had a volunteer from the program in their

department almost every day since the youth began volunteering.

In the hospital’s medical surgical

department, the volunteers pass out ice and linens, round on the

patients to see if there are any special needs and simply sit and

talk with the patients.

“The youth ambassadors are a great help to

the nurses and to the patients,” Elliott said.

“mso-spacerun: yes;”> 

“We really miss them when they are

not here.”

Murray said the group was the workforce of

tomorrow. He noted that TCMH is one of the largest employers in

Texas County. 

“All forecasts point toward growth in the

healthcare field, and when combined with the challenge of getting

good healthcare employees and keeping them working in a rural area

means that we have a great opportunity to bring students into our

workplace while they are still thinking about future careers,”

Murray said. “Today’s youth are thinking about careers, and this

helps provide some guidance for them.”

Murray believes that many of the

ambassadors are receiving their first education about what goes on

behind the doors of their county hospital.

“Many people never fully realize what we do

here on a daily basis,” he said.

Samantha Jones of Houston said that she

“didn’t want to leave” after doing her volunteer time as a youth


Murray and McKinney agree that the youth

ambassadors are able to provide more services to the hospital

departments and to patients than fully imagined at the beginning of

the program.

“We are just now beginning to appreciate

how much help we can get from these students,” Murray said.

All volunteers went through an orientation

and committed to volunteering at TCMH for four hours each month

upon acceptance to the program. The program includes three levels

of volunteer achievement – healthcare survivor, TCMH idol and

amazing ambassador-and the levels can be achieved based on

volunteer hours and work ethic.

For additional information about the

program, McKinney can be reached at

“mso-spacerun: yes;”> 

417-967-1346 or 866-967-3311, ext.

346, or via e-mail at tmckinney@tcmh.org.


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