A candy striper is a term that refers to a female hospital volunteer. The concept of the candy striper began in the 1940s.
The name candy striper was taken from the look of the volunteers – a candy cane look made from red and white-striped pinafores. In the beginning, the volunteers would make their own pinafores. According to history, East Orange General Hospital, located in New Jersey, was the first hospital to start a candy striper program way back in 1944.
Candy stripers were quite ubiquitous during the 1950s and 60s. A candy striper’s function is to help ease the stay of patients in the hospital and make their confinement more pleasant. Candy stripers used to deliver mail or distribute meals to patients. But with the duties of nurses getting more and more hectic, the volunteers began to assume some of the nurses’ roles. These additional roles include feeding the patients, reading to them, assist patients who are about to be discharged and deliver messages.
Over the years, candy striping has changed. During the early years of the program, candy stripers were trained for months. But in most hospitals at present, volunteers are just trained for a few days. A new change in the program is the addition of male candy stripers, a role that was exclusively filled by women before. Because of the addition of males in the program, it is more common to hear the word “volunteers” now instead of candy striper. Of course, uniforms have also drastically changed from the red and white jumpers used during the heyday of the volunteer program.