The Gift of Volunteer Service: Become a Hospital Gift Shop Volunteer

A hospital gift shop is a hub of activity in many medical centers across the country; and, more often than not, many of these shops are run almost totally by volunteer workers. And while a gift shop associate might not wield the power or influence of a doctor or nurse, he/she plays a vital role in the operations of a medical center.

Perhaps most importantly, the gift shop holds numerous comfort items that can ease the tensions of a sad or nervous patient. For most people, a newspaper, magazine, or candy bar is a minor convenience; for a hospital patient, it could be an important distraction that—for a while at least—diverts his/her mind from what could be a serious health condition.

In a similar vein, a family member who wants to convey love and warm wishes for a patient can find numerous tokens of affection and good will within the walls of a gift shop. These could take the form of bright balloons, candy boxes (providing, of course, that the patient's diet allows for sweets), greeting cards, beautiful flowers, and adorable dolls and stuffed animals. What expectant mother wouldn't be comforted by a lush rose bouquet; and what sick child wouldn't love a doll or teddy bear?

Hospital gift shops also offer items for those who come to visit patients; whether it's a paperback novel that can keep them occupied while their friend or family member is in surgery, or a soda or fruit juice to wet their whistle during long days at the hospital.

Beyond helping customers locate and purchase the merchandise they need, hospital gift shop clerks play another important role in many situations; that of a confidante or perhaps even a caregiver. After all, it's never easy to see a friend or a loved one in the hospital, infirmed or in pain. When someone walks into a hospital gift shop, he/she might be looking for far more than candy or soda. They might need a smiling face and a listening ear. As a hospital gift shop associate, you have the power to brighten a day, to ease the effects of what could be a very serious situation.

Keep in mind also that hospital gift shops are, in many cases, an important fund-raising unit for the hospital itself. Many of these shops are run by boards and auxiliaries that serve to support the operations of their parent medical centers. So by donating your time to a hospital gift shop, you support the hospital, its staff, and especially its patients. And in doing so you eventually may advance to a paying position at the shop, becoming a manager or merchandiser.

If you enjoy working with the public and have a keen interest in convenience and collectible items, you could find work in any number of stores or gift shops. Yet by volunteering in a hospital gift shop, you stand to make a real difference; become a gift shop volunteer today!

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