The Candy Striper
The Candy Striper program is believed to have started in 1944, when a group of high school girls began volunteering at a local hospital in New Jersey. The girls were recognized by their “candy-striped” dresses, a white and pink-striped uniform that resembled a peppermint candy.
Today, the typical candy striper is between 13 and 18 and more likely to wear a shirt and pants or a hospital-styled uniform and badge. The position is also no longer girls-only. In fact, because of the increasing interest from males, many hospitals now refer to these young workers as “junior volunteers.”
Candy Stripers in Action
The current Candy Striper program at Geisinger Health System in Danville, PA, started 45 to 50 years ago. Lynn Shearer, Volunteer Program Director, says to be eligible, the prospective volunteers must be interviewed, attend a day-long training session and commit to working at least one day a week. Most students work during the summer, but many continue volunteering through the school year, or come back during school breaks and holidays. Though they don’t get paid, Shearer says the students value the time as an opportunity to learn about working in the health care field.
Candy stripers are generally not directly involved in patient care. However, they can read to patients, transport them to other areas of the hospital, deliver flowers and gifts or work in the store room, gift shop and reception desk. For the hospitals candy stripers are valued for their ability to attend to many patient needs, freeing up nurses and medical staff for more direct care and other responsibilities. For the patients, candy stripers provide a friendly face, listening ear and comfort to those who are lonely or scared.
AUDIENCE INQUIRYContact your local hospital for volunteer opportunities.
BIBLIOGRAPHYLarson, Laurie, “Volunteers: Help in Plain Sight,” Trustee, September 2004, Vol. 57, No. 8, pp. 6-10,11.
Pulich, M., “Managing Health Care Volunteer Programs,” Health Care Manager, April-June 2008, Vol. 27, No. 2, pp. 159-164.