Student volunteer wins one for FSRMC team
A 21-year-old University of Tennessee pre-med student whose chatty bedside manner wins over patients at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center has received a 2017 Tennessee Hospital Association meritorious service award in recognition of his volunteer service to the hospital.
Jay Patel is the first student to receive a meritorious service award in the volunteer category. The award was presented at the recent THA annual meeting in Nashville.
“At lot of people at UT enjoy football or computer gaming, but I enjoy volunteering in my free time,” said Patel, whose parents came to the U.S. from India in 1994 with little more than $325 and a dream of a better life. “Most winners of that award have been volunteers at hospitals for many years, so it was definitely a big surprise. I’m glad I could do something that made this hospital and Covenant Health proud, especially after all they’ve done for me.”
Paula Minhinnett, Fort Sanders Regional’s volunteer services coordinator, said Patel’s “benevolent spirit” touches all who meet him. “Jay has helped us in so many ways – always very cheerful and always doing whatever we need done, whether it’s hauling materials on a cart or visiting with some of our patients,” she said.
Minhinnett said that many patients ask for Patel by name. “Jay has made such an impact on patients that when he’s not here, they ask, ‘Where’s Jay? When is Jay coming back?’ He’s a people person with a big heart.”
Patel said volunteerism is preparing him for a medical career, either in rural family medicine or cardiology. He enjoys spending time getting to know patients, and he believes doing so sharpens one of a physician’s most critical skills: listening.
“In medicine, it’s all about the patient, and you look at life through the patient’s perspective,” he said. “If you don’t understand the patient, how are you going to treat them? Volunteering has allowed me to be more culturally competent student so I can understand the patient better.”
“Plus, I get to learn interesting things,” he grinned, recalling conversations that ranged from recipes and religion to whether “The Golden Girls” was the best TV show since “Bonanza” or “M*A*S*H.” “You get to meet a lot of amazing people. It’s a blast, an absolute blast!”
Patel also has spent hundreds of hours “shadowing” Covenant Health physicians and surgeons to learn more about medicine. And when Fort Sanders Regional Chaplain Randy Tingle called for No One Dies Alone (NODA) volunteers to sit with dying patients who have no family or acquaintances, Patel was quick to step up.
“I believe a patient wants to know someone is there with them,” he said. “I try to help them feel like they’re with a close friend.”