Health care career journey from volunteers to colleagues

Sarah Stanek, Radiology professional development specialist, and Michaella Mendick, occupational therapist

There can be many paths to a health care career. For two longtime friends, they decided to embark on the journey together, beginning as Nebraska Medicine volunteers and advancing in their professions. However, it was their time as volunteers that laid the foundation to help them arrive at where they are today in their careers. 

Sarah Stanek, Radiology professional development specialist, and Michaella Mendick, occupational therapist, Outpatient Rehab Services, have known each other since their days of youth volleyball. As 20-year-olds in 2006, they wanted to volunteer with Nebraska Medicine. Stanek and Mendick were both on a path to get into X-ray and occupational therapy school, respectively.  

“We wanted to put some volunteer hours and experience on our applications and wanted to see the nitty-gritty of working at the hospital,” says Stanek. 

The two volunteered four to eight hours a week in the Emergency Department. They did everything from transporting patients to cleaning to taking labs to the laboratory – each learning how to navigate the med center. Volunteers play an integral role in providing extraordinary care. They support staff, patients and visitors by completing nonclinical tasks, helping patients find their way to appointments, stocking supplies, and spending time with patients as a friendly visitor. 

Volunteering also provided the two with important skills they use today like communication skills with patients, their families, as well as health care colleagues. It also was a real-life practicum of time management skills and reinforced the need to be flexible and adaptable when working in health care.

“Overall, volunteering here taught us a lot about health care and all the areas we could work in,” says Mendick. “It was definitely a good way to get our foot in the door in such a large organization.” 

“It was good that we were able to see a lot of interdisciplinary teams and how they come together as one big team,” Stanek adds. “I think it prepared us for what we were about to experience in our clinicals.”

After volunteering and going through their education, Stanek and Mendick found jobs back with Nebraska Medicine. Mendick has been with the organization for 17 years, with Stanek having 13 years of experience.

“From the days of volunteering to now, we’ve done a little bit of everything and have advanced our careers,” says Stanek. “It’s cool to think we have 30 years of combined service and have been able to be here since our time as volunteers.” 

Prior to her current role, Mendick began her time at Nebraska Medical Center as a rehab tech and then as an inpatient OT and OT lead and supervisor. Stanek began her career here as an X-ray tech and then as a lead X-ray tech.  

“I’ve been in my role since 2000 and I have had the joy of seeing hundreds of students come through our volunteer program, including Sarah and Michaella,” says Patty Ostronic, Volunteer Services lead. “It makes me so happy when I see a former volunteer now as a colleague in the hallways. They achieved their goal and I hope their volunteer experience helped them.” 

While volunteering with Nebraska Medicine provided greater exposure to real-world experience in a hospital for Stanek and Mendick, the two agreed that volunteering here can be beneficial to anyone. 

“Whether or not someone volunteering wants to go into health care, being a volunteer here just shows you how health care operates from an employee perspective, patient perspective and from the families’ perspective,” says Mendick. 

Mendick and Stanek can even envision themselves volunteering later on in life.  

“Volunteering here isn’t just for teenagers or people going into health care,” says Mendick. “I could see this going full circle for us, retiring, and then coming back to volunteer.  

Interested in volunteering?
Visit the Volunteer Services website or email to learn about the variety of volunteer opportunities.