Island Health Step Up Youth volunteer program a resounding success

After a successful first year back in-person after the pandemic hiatus, Island Health’s Step Up Youth volunteer program has wrapped for the year. The program provides opportunities for youth aged 15 - 18 to gain experience in healthcare through online learning modules, guest speaker presentations, and active participation in volunteer roles. 

“Every day, young people step up and demonstrate their commitment to making life better for people around the province,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “This unique program offers high school students a fantastic opportunity to volunteer and learn about clinical and non-clinical careers in healthcare. They gain valuable experience sharing ideas and leading projects, as well as gain an exciting entry point into a rewarding career in healthcare.”

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Beginning last fall, 209 Step Up Youth volunteers supported eight different acute care hospitals and long-term care sites from Victoria to Port Hardy, including several remote and rural locations. Clad in navy-blue uniforms, bright red lanyards and smiles, volunteers spent their time visiting with patients and residents, helping with activities, playing games, decorating for holidays, playing music, providing mealtime support and learning about careers in healthcare. 

“Our Step Up Youth volunteers have shown incredible courage and initiative in re-entering our health-care facilities through the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kathy MacNeil, Island Health President and CEO. “I’d like to thank the wonderful Island Health staff who have supported and encouraged our youth volunteers through their journey.”

This important work demonstrates how youth volunteers are a valued part of the Island Health care team. It also showcases the Step Up Youth volunteer program as a valuable recruitment and retention initiative. When surveyed, 92% of Step Up Youth volunteers indicated they were interested in pursuing a career in healthcare. 

Between September 2022 and April 2023, Step Up Youth volunteers visited with over 5,600 patients and residents, provided 23 hours of musical entertainment, and helped with 34.5 hours of activities for residents in long-term care. 

Step Up Youth participants not only volunteered in-person, but also met online each month to connect with guest speakers in the health-care field, hearing from Island Health physicians, nurses, and medical imaging technologists. They also learned about student job opportunities and entry-level Island Health careers. Further, 104 volunteers received Take-Home Naloxone Training from a trio of award-winning harm reduction activists. 

The three tenets of the Step Up Youth volunteer program are: Step Up and C.A.R.E., Step Up and Learn, and Step Up and Lead. 

“My favourite part of volunteering with this program is all the meaningful and diverse interactions I have made,” said Tanvi, a Victoria-based Step Up Youth volunteer. “From dropping off a card and having a conversation, to keeping a patient company, to making friends with other volunteers during our team huddles, the Step Up Youth program has been an amazing experience". 

Other volunteers also appreciated the social aspect of the role.

“Volunteering with older residents at Dufferin and patients at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital has taught me new ways to hold conversations," said Jasmine, an NRGH Step Up Youth volunteer team leader. “I really enjoy making bonds with the patients, and I especially enjoyed hearing their excitement about getting discharged from the hospital!" 

Most volunteers reported that they felt more confident and compassionate by the end of the program, with many noticing improvements in their social skills.

Applications are now open for the 2023-24 Step Up Youth volunteer program at 12 Island Health facilities for youth aged 15-18 seeking a rewarding volunteer role in healthcare. Applications close on July 15th, 2023. 

For more information about the Step Up Youth volunteer program including site locations, entry requirements, volunteer role description, and application details, please visit or email