Dozens of workers at New Hanover Regional Medical Center got their start in medicine as a candy striper. Today, this active group is known as Junior Volunteers, and they wear teal polo shirts and khaki pants. But up until about 25 years ago, those volunteers wore iconic pink and white striped pinafores that quickly identified them as junior volunteers.
Lori Chinn, who joined NHRMC as a Certified Nursing Assistant in September, was one of the last volunteers at NHRMC to wear the familiar candy-striper uniform.
Chinn was in ninth grade in 1992 and 1993, when she and her best friend volunteered on Saturday mornings. She enjoyed pushing the wheelchairs carrying new moms and their babies, and sometimes she would carry specimens to the laboratory for testing.
Janet DeLucca, now Administrator of Cardiac Services at NHRMC, delivered meals, snacks and flowers to patient rooms as a candy striper at hospitals in Virginia and New York in the 1980s. Robin Pearsall, a Compliance Auditor at NHRMC, volunteered at NHRMC in the 1970s, staffing the front desk and issuing passes to visitors. Ruth Glaser, now the President of Pender Memorial Hospital, also was a candy striper at NHRMC, answering phones and assisting visitors in the surgery waiting room in the 1980s.
Every one of them said they loved their experience as a candy striper. Except for one thing, Lori Chinn said.
“The biggest drawback to volunteering was that I hated the uniform,” Chinn said. “Now they have a candy-striper uniform in the museum display.”
Some former candy stripers credit their volunteer work with launching a career in healthcare.
Chinn didn’t immediately pursue a healthcare career, but she rejoined the workforce after raising her children.
Lorraine Sieminski, Oncology RN Navigator/Program Coordinator at Zimmer Cancer Center, said she knew she wanted to be a nurse long before she first got to wear the candy stripes at a Pennsylvania hospital.
“I wanted to be a nurse from the age of 3,” Sieminski said. “At least that’s what my mom told me!”
Nationally, the familiar candy striper uniforms were first broadly used around 1944, according to research from The Columbus Dispatch. When one New Jersey hospital ordered the striped uniform for volunteers, the manufacturer used the same cloth for other clients until it became standard.
As young men joined the volunteer force along with volunteers of different ages, the candy striper uniform was gradually phased out at most hospitals, including NHRMC, by the 1990s. A few hospitals, however, still have candy stripers today.
Though they don’t wear the pinstripe uniforms, NHRMC’s Junior Volunteers and College Volunteers assist employees, patients and family members throughout the year.
Join Our Volunteers
The next group of NHRMC Junior Volunteers will start in the spring. The online application will be available in January. For complete details, click here:
Altogether, NHRMC has more than 900 active volunteers. You can apply to be an adult volunteer at our main campus, any of our offsite locations, the SECU Family House or Pender Memorial Hospital.