Volunteer extraordinaire Hannah Lanser is happy to be in the hospital, even on Christmas day, because that is where her personality and empathy can make a difference for stressed patients.
Hannah Lanser, a senior at Cedar Grove-Belgium High School, has a winning smile and caring personality that puts people at ease, even those in traumatic situations.
For the past year, Lanser, 18, of Belgium, has been a volunteer in the emergency room at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton on Sunday mornings. During the summer, she also volunteers in the cancer center, working with patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
“With volunteers, our goal is to reduce the anxiety of patients and their loved ones,” said Karen Schaefer, coordinator of volunteer services for Aurora Health Care.
“Hannah does that beautifully. She has a high level of empathy and is able to make a positive connection very quickly and provide that calming support during a very difficult time in their lives.
“Hannah is such a gift to us and our patients. She stands out as exceptional among our 150-plus volunteers.”
Lanser said she is comfortable talking with people she doesn’t know and likes to put people at ease.
“I like to make things positive and create a good environment even in sad moments. I introduce myself and ask if there is anything I can get them — a warm blanket, a drink or food if they’re allowed to have it,” Lanser said.
“I’ve gone to people who are really worried about their situation and calm them down, let them know everything is going to be OK, that they’re in good hands here.”
Lanser makes sure the trauma room, where ambulance patients arrive, and exam rooms are fully stocked with gloves, sanitizing agents, gauze, tape, absorbent pads, needles and other items.
She sanitizes wheelchairs in the ER lobby and stocks the nourishment room with crackers, cookies and beverages.
“I even bake cookies. The doctors really like it when I do that,” she said.
“When I know an ambulance is coming, I’m at the top of my game. I know it can be very serious and want to be ready.”
The hospital volunteer job, she said, is good preparation for her planned career as a neonatal nurse.
She considered becoming an ultrasound technician, but after she shadowed a neonatal nurse, Lanser knew that was the job for her.
“The work those nurses do is so important,” Lanser said. “The babies are so small. I got to hold one and give her a bottle. They need to be held and touched.”
Lanser learned about the ER volunteer program from classmate Justin Casper, who has volunteered there for two years. He was hired this year as a dietary aide, working after school, but still volunteers Sunday evenings in the ER.
Lanser took a certified nursing assistant course at her school last summer and works as a CNA at Heritage Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Port Washington.
The class is offered this year during the school day as an elective. Many adults also take the course.
Lanser plans to attend Moraine Park Technical College in Fond du Lac to obtain a two-year nursing degree, then go to the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh to complete her four-year nursing degree, specializing in neonatal care.
She is taking a college level biology class and plans to take anatomy this summer to get a head start on her career.
Lanser is also a dedicated volunteer at her school, Divine Savior Parish and Jay Road 4-H Club.
At school, she’s been a freshman mentor for two years, an elementary or middle-school teacher assistant for three years — this year helping sixth-graders with math — plays clarinet in the band and is a member of the forensics team. She wrote a humorous group piece that took second place this year in state competition.
“It was a take-off on the Disney princesses. Instead of being perfect, they talked about how they’re not the best role models for children,” Lanser said.
Lanser helped with Vacation Bible School at her parish, worked in a Knoxville, Tenn., homeless shelter on a mission trip and served meals and collected blankets for St. Benedict the Moor homeless shelter in downtown Milwaukee for a confirmation project.
She and friends Kasie Feind and Samantha Green enjoyed the project so much, they held another blanket drive this year and took them to the shelter.
Lanser has been involved in many 4-H activities, serving as club treasurer for 10 years. She and other club members play bingo once a month with residents at Belgium Gardens assisted-living facility and also plant and maintain a flower garden at Community Park in Belgium.
“My parents (Terri and Jeff) pushed me to volunteer, and I never stopped,” Lanser said.
“My favorite volunteer job is in the ER. I like being in the hospital setting.”
On Christmas Day, Lanser surprised her family by taking her clarinet to the hospital and playing Christmas music in the main entrance.
“Nobody wants to be in a hospital on Christmas Day, and I just wanted to make it happier for them,” she said.
It’s no wonder Lanser was one of two teenagers recently named the Youth Volunteer of the Year by the Volunteer Center of Ozaukee. Mikayla Schowalter, who organized efforts to install a lift in the Food Pantry in Port Washington, was the other recipient.
Lanser’s teachers and forensic coaches, Mary Beth Desens and Christopher Nonhof, nominated her for the honor, noting she also excels in the classroom, has a thirst for knowledge and challenges herself to acquire it.