Welcoming volunteers back to hospitals

Bob Power is happy to be back volunteering at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital. For nearly five years, he’s been serving on Unit 54, where he stocks supplies, helps patients with breakfast and other tasks they may need done and takes time to visit with them.  

After several months away due to COVID-19, volunteers have been returning since mid-June, and for many, their roles have temporarily changed due to ongoing pandemic restrictions.

“I was pretty sad when we had to stop volunteering in March, but I understand why it was necessary,” says Bob. “I’m really glad to be back. Volunteering is a big part of my life. I’m working here three days a week — four hours each day helping screen visitors coming to the hospital’s front door for COVID-19.”

Bob Power, Grey Nuns Community Hospital volunteer

Volunteers across the province are returning to their hospital roles in a phased approach. That means they aren’t able to visit patients on units, something that won’t change until all visitor restrictions are lifted.

“It’s amazing that during COVID there are people who want to volunteer in hospitals,” says Brenda Shim, volunteer services manager at the Misericordia Community Hospital. “It takes real kindness and courage to want to come and be of service. I applaud them. We are so grateful.”

The first volunteers back at the Grey Nuns and Misericordia community hospitals were screeners. These volunteers help greet visitors to the hospital and make sure they’re following the chief medical officer of health’s orders. The Grey Nuns needs 21 volunteer screeners and the Misericordia needs 88 volunteer screeners each week. Volunteers, who are trained, work alongside other staff, including a porter, security guard and healthcare professional.

“Volunteers are treated like the staff they work beside. They really find this work rewarding because they know they’re making a difference,” says Teresa Lucier, volunteer services manager at the Grey Nuns. “There’s a lot of responsibility in this role, and they are stepping up.” 

Jayadeep Rao, Misericordia Community Hospital volunteer

“I think my first day back I was a bit excited and scared,” says Jayadeep Rao, a Misericordia volunteer. “It was a little frightening going in, but as you sit at the screening table and notice everyone else is calm, it doesn’t seem as daunting.” 

Registered nurse Cindy Brown working at the staff screening station at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital

It is wonderful to see volunteers returning, says Cindy Brown, a registered nurse at the Grey Nuns hospital.

“I think everybody at the hospital missed the volunteers,” says Cindy. “They’re here because they want to be, and we appreciate that. They’re wonderful people.”

Brenda says she’s heard lots of stories from Misericordia hospital staff who missed the volunteers. “You often don’t miss something until you don’t have it. Volunteers are part of our hospital community. Having members of the community come in and serve is what our hospital stands for. It builds on the foundation of our founding Sisters, who served the community.”

When volunteers couldn’t physically come to the sites, many asked what they could do from home. They made thousands of masks for staff and patients and hearts for the connecting hearts project.

Volunteers are currently supporting the emergency department and general clinics. Their roles and locations will expand as restrictions ease.

Both Bob and Jayadeep are looking forward to being able to visit with patients again.

“I miss talking to patients,” says Jayadeep. “I miss the work and hope I get to do it again soon because I get to meet and talk to really interesting people. Right now, I am happy to be able to help out in any way I can because in this uncertain time I feel like it’s important for me to give back.”

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