Sometimes you just can’t put a price on good workers.
Donna Archer, director of volunteer services at Wayne UNC Health Care, is looking for about 20 volunteers to share their hearts with others.
In the role since 2002, her efforts were recognized at the state level in 2011 when she was named the first recipient of the Outstanding Volunteer Director for North Carolina by the Governor’s Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service.
As the hospital has changed through the years, the former Wayne Memorial Hospital mission statement of “Patients First” continues, with volunteers playing an important part.
“As people come here, they’re stressed and you don’t want to tell them, ‘Well, you go down this hall and you take the third left.’ If you’re here for an endoscopy to find out if you have colon cancer, you want somebody to walk you there,” she said.
“Way finding,” the new buzz term for assisting those who come through the admitting and information areas at the hospital, is just one way to support those who enter the hospital doors.
Opportunities to serve can range from being a resource of information to providing blankets and refreshments to family members.
“I would love, if we had enough volunteers, I would love somebody walking along the front of the hospital to see if somebody needed a wheelchair, to see if somebody looked lost or whatever, see if they needed help getting something out of their vehicle,” she said.
Archer’s volunteers may not anticipate every need, but that doesn’t slow down her efforts trying.
She said optimally she can accommodate 120 volunteers. Currently she has 100.
“I would love to have 20 more volunteers that could really help with the things that matter the most for the patients,” she said.
In addition to the information desk and admitting, the surgical waiting rooms are where many are assigned.
The commitment level can vary.
“We don’t have to have a set schedule,” she said. “Some assignments do, but some are very flexible. An example is the ICU waiting room, the Sunshine Cart, those are very flexible assignments.”
The Sunshine Cart is a recent addition, and involves making available items like magazines and puzzle books. Because of the visitation restrictions of patient rooms during the flu season, the role involves going to the different waiting rooms and distributing items.
Assignments are typically weekdays, but she welcomes those able to do other shifts.
“Most of the retirees do want a schedule so they can schedule other appointments and other volunteer hours and their grandchildren around that schedule,” she said. “For someone that’s not retired, we have those flexible assignments that can be evenings and weekends.
“We really can accommodate most people. If they have the qualifications, if they understand customer service (and the roles) and they can be committed, we can find a place for them.”
Some of the lesser-known roles where volunteers are needed are pet therapy — bringing their own personal dogs with nationally certified pet therapy destinations to visit inpatients, as well as chaplains or living history.
“We need chaplains,” Archer said, particularly being on-call for a 24-hour shift once a month. “During that shift, come and visit patients, whether they choose one floor or pick and choose.
“We definitely need chaplains to provide on-call, for emergencies. If there’s an explosion, if there’s a bad car wreck, anything like that. We need to be able to provide spiritual care for those patients and their families.”
The living history offering has also been well-received by patients, families and staff alike. It involves interviewing a patient and recording a one-page synopsis of their life.
“It starts out, people are like, ‘Is this going to be my obituary?’ It scares people, so the approach is very important,” Archer said. “The very first living history that we did, the patient said her doctor was very quick in and out every day but after he read her living history, there was a connection between where this woman was born and raised and where his mother was born and raised.
“So he ended up staying in her room like 30 minutes.”
The brief biography is retained in the patient’s chart and the patient receives a copy to hang in the room, she said.
Volunteers play a vital role, Archer said, sometimes offering patients and their families extra time that doctors and nurses don’t have the luxury to afford.
“They do bring heart, and most of them have been patients,” she said. “They bring compassion, and they know what that person needs at that moment, whether it’s a hug, a pat on the back, a pitcher of water.
“Volunteers do those things. They just bring an extra touch to everything they do.”
There is a vetting process to the role. Applications are online at wayneunc.org/volunteers or can be mailed upon request by calling 919-731-6353. In addition to an interview, there is a background check. A flu shot and tuberculosis vaccination are also required.