Jackson Parks is a sophomore at Creighton University with a passion for volunteering.
“He has completely rewritten what our volunteer jobs are,” said Michaela Kanoski, Volunteer & Guest Services manager at CHI Bergan Mercy Hospital.
Jackson Parks volunteers at CHI Bergan Mercy Hospital, where answering phones and giving people directions at the front desk are two of his main responsibilities. He occasionally delivers mail and participated in a “mock casualty incident” where volunteers learned how to respond to incidents where people are injured. He learned how to react in that situation and transport patients to safety.
These may seem like simple tasks, but Parks takes pride in his work and knows that these small things make a difference to people.
“The hospital isn’t everybody’s favorite place to be,” Parks said. “When they come in, they’re not having a great day, just to take that extra moment to really care for them and make sure they get to their destination or listen to what’s going on, let them know that you’re there and you’re thinking of them and kind of changing their day is what makes it worth it.”
His passion for volunteering started as a preteen, when he worked with local soccer clubs, food pantries, and his church. In high school, Parks transitioned to volunteering for hospitals.
Parks’ dad, Alan Parks, D.O., is a surgeon and his mom, Heather, is a health coach. When he started thinking about his future, Parks was inspired by listening to his parents talk about their jobs. This, in turn, made him realize being a doctor aligned with his interests, morals, and values.
When Parks told his dad he was thinking about working in the medical field, his dad suggested volunteering at a hospital in order to gain experience in that environment. Parks started volunteering at Midlands Hospital as a junior in high school and transitioned to CHI Bergan Mercy Hospital in college.
“Volunteering is kind of a time for me to relax and just clear my head,” Parks said. “So any stress that’s going on, you know, homework, test, any of that stuff just kind of lifts when I’m a volunteer.”
Kanoski, however, describes what a difference he has made at CHI Bergan Mercy.
“His energy has been really positive for our campus, he has been a breath of fresh air for us,” Kanoski said. “The amount of things that this kid has taken on has been amazing.”
Parks advocated for volunteers to do as much as they can for patients. Hospital employees often find Parks assisting patients whenever possible. Although volunteers are not licensed to do specific bedside care, Parks has been known to go above and beyond, such as the time he hand-fed a quadriplegic patient.
“We didn’t know, he didn’t tell us,” Kanoski said.
Other times, Parks will say he is simply going for a walk with a patient, when in reality he will push the patient in a wheelchair across the hospital campus.
“There [was] a patient [who had] been inside for a few months and hadn’t really gotten to experience the outside air,” Parks said.
Jackson Parks took the patient out and was with the person during their first moments of fresh air in months.
“When he or she went outside and was able to just kind of breathe in the air, you know, it was really meaningful to them,” Parks said.
Being able to spend time outside reminded the patient of childhood. These experiences make volunteering worthwhile for Parks.
“Hearing different life stories and stuff like that, it kind of changes me. It challenges me to grow,” Parks said.
Volunteering at the hospital has become an integral part of Parks’ life. He moved back and forth between Omaha and Ohio while his dad was studying to be a doctor, but he has always considered Omaha his home. His motivation for volunteering comes from wanting to give back to the community.
“At the hospital, it’s a supporting experience for others, but it really kind of helps me,” Parks said. “Volunteering means the world to me, it’s a chance for me to go out and give back to the community.”
Kanoski said that Parks’ passion and desire to help every person he can has set a tone for other volunteers at CHI Bergan Mercy.
“He is so willing to make every patient’s experience a good one,” Kanoski said.
Knowing that he makes a difference in others’ lives is incredibly important to Parks and a hospital is the perfect place for him to make an impact.
This article was printed in the January/February 2020 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.