Should you or someone in your family consider volunteering at a local hospital? My answer would be an unequivocal “Yes!” Hospital volunteers share a common goal: to help others. They come in all ages and backgrounds and are a crucial part of the hospital’s team of care givers and support staff. What I have observed at OSF Saint Francis is an incredible dedication to our patients and their families. Volunteers add a unique personal touch and contribute to the healthcare team through a variety of roles and responsibilities.
Many times volunteers come to us because they or a family member or friend has been a patient at the Medical Center or in our Children’s Hospital. In other cases, volunteers may simply be investigating what a career in healthcare would be like. Others want to contribute in a way that “makes a difference in someone else’s life.” Whatever the reason, volunteers are welcome. We talk with potential volunteers and discuss the unique and flexible opportunities open to them to become a vital extension of our healthcare family. The variety of volunteer opportunities at OSF Saint Francis and other area hospitals mirror the comprehensive level of services offered in these institutions. Volunteers can take on assignments that permit direct patient contact or which are more indirect. Examples of this variety at OSF Saint Francis and the Children’s Hospital include:
• Ambassador. Visiting with patients, ensuring that needs are being met, reading to patients, watering plants and just “being there.”
• Hospitality. Welcoming patients to the facility, escorting patients and families.
• Transport Service. Transporting patients to and from procedures, discharging patients and transporting supplies.
• Flower and Mail Room. Delivering flowers, mail and e-cards to patients.
• Nursing Assistance. Playing games in the Children’s Hospital, visiting with patients in the care areas, assisting with diversion activities for patients, providing nutrition to patients under nursing direction and clerical and phone support.
• Women’s Health. Reminder phone calls and mailings.
• Clerical. Answering phones, filing, processing mailings and database entry.
One of the advantages of being a hospital volunteer is flexibility, both in hours and assignments. We do ask for a commitment of 50 hours per year, which most volunteers meet easily. In fact, while we have many who assist us once a week, we have others who volunteer two or three shifts per week.
The rewards of hospital volunteering are diverse and go beyond the helping of patients. The friendships and relationships developed with other volunteers and staff are valued. Some of the practical benefits at OSF include meal discounts and vouchers, daily coffee and snacks, computer courses, health screenings and seminars, an annual recognition program and service awards, TB testing, employee discounts and opportunities to participate in local and regional workshops. And, of course, skills are learned that can be added to an individual’s personal inventory of abilities and knowledge.
There aren’t many qualifications for hospital volunteers, but such qualifications are important. They include:
• Having a desire to serve others
• Being in good physical and mental health
• Having a willingness to make a time commitment
• Agreeing to abide by the policies and regulations of the hospital or medical center and the volunteer services department
• Having a listening ear and a loving, caring heart.
If you are interested or have additional questions, contact the hospital’s Volunteer Services department. You’ll never regret taking the time to help others. Since April 23-29 is National Volunteer Week, if you are in a hospital as a visitor or patient this month, take a minute to thank a volunteer for the time he or she is giving to serve you. Volunteers are easily identified by colorful jackets and smocks. At OSF Saint Francis, look for men in teal and ladies in yellow and pink.
And while you are thanking them for the services they render, ask them what it is that draws them to volunteering. If their response strikes a chord, check out the opportunities. You’ll be glad you did. IBI