The 19-year-old Darnell Cookman Middle-High School graduate planned to major in business and then climb the corporate ladder to career success. One night about five months ago, however, she suddenly concluded she had neither the interest nor the competitive personality for business. And at just about the same time she had that thought, Caprood decided she would become a nurse.
Both her Mimi and her granddaddy were nurses at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Riverside. To test her change of course, she decided to volunteer there. About two months ago, she joined a fledgling program
in which volunteers visit patients.
Volunteer Coordinator Janet Streit told Caprood about the Whole Person program or Person-Centered Care, and Caprood immediately signed up. The program is starting in the 4 West unit, with about a dozen volunteers visiting patients recuperating from heart surgery.
“I’m young. I want to be where the action is,” Caprood explains.
Ultimately, Streit wants every unit of the hospital covered by a volunteer care force from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.
Streit explains that the idea that energizes the program is to bring more heart into the hospital experience. Volunteers visit patients, clean off their trays, bring them water or an extra blanket, provide them with a magazine or word games and, maybe most important, talk. “It’s kind of what you would do for your grandparents,” she says.
Streit began the program two months ago with Caprood, who is 5 feet, 1 inch tall with curly brown hair, possessing a self-confidence that seems about twice as big as she is. She says the experience has made her feel more connected to the community, more confident and more certain nursing is the right choice for her. That’s often affirmed by the patients she visits.
“Every day, somebody tells me I will make a great nurse she says. “That’s very empowering.”
Recently, Caprood spent time talking to a man who had served in the military during World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He’d lost his hearing in an explosion and has a glass eye. Caprood says that the experience was invaluable to her as a young person. She heard about World War II directly from someone who lived it. When she saw the man again, as he checked out, he told her that he was just telling his wife about her and about how much he’d enjoyed talking to her and how good it made him feel, after being so bored watching television.
“It’s uplifting for everyone involved,” says Caprood. “It makes you feel more human and more alive. I have a lot going on in my life, with school, my job and my family, but I am really glad that I’m taking this time to connect with people. It’s really something I think
more young people should do.”
A patient is often in a very vulnerable state during a hospital stay, says Streit, and they will sometimes share deep fears with a stranger who is open to listening, fears that they might hold back from family, medical staff or clergy.
“A caring stranger without any other reason to be there but to comfort the patient will often give a person the feeling of safety to open up,” says Streit. “It’s an amazing thing that happens, really, in a real deep, heart-to-heart way.”
And the nurse-in-training is learning that those moments are often as healing as any prescription.
“I think spiritual healing is just as important as physical healing. I think they go hand-in-hand,” says Caprood.
Kathryne Caprood knows that the experience will give her a good foundation in her chosen field of nursing.
“Because you are there to talk to people, you realize that whenever you pass a room, you pass people, people who have stories. Everyone has a story.”