Mykaila Florence, Volunteer of the Year for Children's Hospital
Mykaila Florence, Volunteer of the Year for Children's Hospital
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Volunteer Services selects future physician, nurse for annual honor

Published on Thursday, November 1, 2018

By: Kate Royals

Volunteers Trenton Johnson and Mykaila Florence are each one in 1,000.

Both were chosen from around 1,000 other volunteers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center as this year’s Volunteers of the Year.

They are also unique in that out of all of their counterparts at other Mississippi Hospital Association hospitals, they are the only students to be selected for the award.

Florence, who was chosen as the Batson Children’s Hospital Volunteer of the Year, started volunteering at 16 years old for one reason.

“I wanted to rock babies,” she said, laughing.

Her mom told her about the volunteer program at UMMC, and so she started working at the secretary desk in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants.

She never did get to rock any babies, but the work she did in the NICU and the 3rd floor of Wiser made her realize she wanted to work with babies as a nurse, and eventually, as a nurse practitioner.

“I loved it up there,” the Clinton resident described. “The nurses were so friendly. They were so enthusiastic and happy to welcome me into their environment.”

She is now a student at Holmes Community College on track to become a Licensed Practical Nurse.

Florence gets ice for patients in the women and infants' hospital.

Part of her duties included taking the coffee cart around to patients and their families. Among the memories she won’t forget is taking coffee to the 7th floor of Batson Children’s Hospital in the mornings.

“Seventh floor is surgery – that’s where the parents are waiting on their kids to either come out of surgery or get updates. Seeing some coffee at 8 in the morning looks pretty good to them compared to whatever their situation is,” she described.

It was there she realized “I feel good making other people happy.”

Florence’s role as a volunteer continued to change, and she stepped in to help fill a major hole when the volunteer service coordinator for Batson left the position over the summer.

Hannah Thompson, a customer service representative in the Office of Patient Experience, worked closely with Florence during that time.

“She was a very, very dedicated volunteer. I loved her work ethic,” she said.

Thompson, a part-time employee, would often be limited by her hours and Florence would step in to complete the work that needed to be done, showing up at 7:30 a.m. to oversee things until Thompson came in at 9.

“She really wanted to be there because she loved to help,” she said. “She’s really … a people person.”

Johnson, left, chats with Dee Brown, hospital technician, at the 3 South nurses station.

Johnson, the Volunteer of the Year for the adult hospital, also has a heart for service and for people. A senior biology major at Jackson State University, he first started volunteering at UMMC to fulfill a class requirement.

But when the class ended, he continued volunteering, logging over 250 hours in one year. And UMMC is only one of several organizations he volunteers with, including Kids Kollege at JSU and the Marfan Syndrome Association, among others.

He credits his grandparents with instilling in him the importance of giving back.

His grandmother is “a lady that always gave and never asked for anything in return.”

Johnson is still close with her, laughing as he says he talked to her on the phone just the night before and sees her regularly during weekends home in Gloster, a small town outside of McComb.

Although his grandfather is now deceased, his impact remains alive in Johnson.

“My grandfather – he just showed me how to become a man and stuff like that, because I’ve never had a father,” he said. “ … He always showed us how to do something better for society. He always gave back.” 

Johnson makes his way to a patient's room in University Hospital to stock gloves.

Johnson now visits patients on the 3rd and 4th floors and helps out however else he can – including answering the phones and passing out non-medical items to patients when the nurses and floor techs are busy.

His favorite thing about volunteering, however, is visiting with patients. His plans include attending medical school to either become a neurosurgeon or a cardiothoracic surgeon and his volunteerism “opened my eyes to a lot of things … it sparked my interest even more.”

He said he has appreciated working in UMMC in particular.

“That’s one thing I saw about [UMMC] – when one hospital says no, they say yes,” he said. “That’s one thing I really enjoy about [UMMC] … they never turn a patient away.”