Small acts of kindness brightening the days of sick kids

Some of the student volunteers from the Wrapped in Love program: (l-r) Minkyung (Liz) Kim (Year 1), Liam Sida (Year 1), Veronique Price (Year 3), Ryan Bartlett (Year 4) and Meredith Cheng (Year 4) A couple of the student volunteers for the Family Room program: Sophie Smith (year 1) and Arvind Kamath (year 4)

During the past few months, approximately 20 students from the ANU School of Medicine and Psychology have been volunteering their time at Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Organised by fourth year medical student, Ryan Bartlett, in collaboration with Mia Carr from Ronald McDonald House ACT & South East NSW, the Wrapped in Love and Family Room programs provide a unique opportunity for students across all years of the Doctor of Medicine and Surgery program to get involved with patients and their families outside of their clinical placements.

For Henry Cameron the motivation to participate came from a family member’s experience.

“A few years ago, my young cousin had an extended stay in hospital and services like Ronald McDonald House provided so much support for her and her family.”

“I chose to participate in the Family Room program which offers a space just off the Paediatric Ward of the Centenary Hospital. It feels like a cosy home with a lounge, kitchen and laundry.”

“It allows any patient or family member to relax, play a board game, or have a meal together in a setting that feels like a home.”

“It has been a really nice experience to spend time in the hospital but in a capacity that is intentionally so far removed from medicine.”

Sophie Smith, a first year student who also volunteered in the Family Room added, “This experience has shown me how important it is for patients to have a ‘break’ from the clinical setting of the hospital.”

“I think that this insight will help me as a future doctor as I will be more conscious of the emotional toll being in a hospital or another health care environment can have on patients, and I'll be able to recognise when they may need to take a little time out.”

Ellen Brown, a student who participated in the Wrapped in Love program that provides gifts to paediatric patients said, “The younger patients in particular light up with expectation and surprise. Receiving a toy, game or other gift creates a sense of normalcy, reminding the children of the comforts of home in a hospital environment.”

Student, Ben Hu added, “It's heart-warming to see how small acts of kindness can brighten days and provide a sense of hope and support.”

“I firmly believe that a small gesture, like a gift, can contribute in positive way to the hospital experience. For the parents witnessing their child receive a gift they thoroughly enjoy it can also be therapeutic. It provides joy and much-needed positivity during difficult times.”

Adam Stephanou, a fourth year medical student jumped at the opportunity to participate after he missed out when the program stopped during the pandemic.

“Any small contribution by volunteers makes a profoundly positive impact on the patient’s day. Being involved in health care is already a privilege in itself, but normally we are undertaking medical interventions that can be seen as scary by the patient or delivering bad news.”

“When you’re a volunteer at Ronald McDonald House, the patient is excited to see you and has a wonderfully big smile on their face. It is a great feeling.“

“I highly recommend the program to all our medical students.”