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April 25, 2006 > Volunteers Make the Difference

Volunteers Make the Difference

Washington Hospital couldn't run without its volunteers, according to Anna Elola, Director of Volunteer Services for Washington Hospital. During National Volunteer Week, April 23-29, Washington Hospital will be celebrating and thanking the hundreds of people who donate their time and talents to benefit the hospital.

"What all of our volunteers have in common is that they share their "gift of time," says Elola. "The volunteers do everything from making puppets to taking care of our patients, families and visitors."

Washington Hospital is supported by a myriad of volunteers serving in all facets of the hospital and the larger community. The Washington Hospital Service League is comprised of the men, women and high school students who volunteer throughout the hospital embodying the League's mission "to offer an extra pair of hands to the staff, enabling them to concentrate their time more fully on patient care."

Volunteers add a ray of sunshine to the hospital according to Alice Santos, R.N., Nursing Director of Medical Surgical Units at Washington Hospital. "Their smiles and willingness to give and help is very much appreciated by the nurses."

During National Volunteer Week, Washington Hospital hosts a special luncheon for all the volunteers who donate their time and effort. Volunteers are also honored by the hospital staff with cards, flowers or homemade cookies in gratitude for their gifts to Washington Hospital.

Volunteers Contribute in Several Ways
Volunteer opportunities at Washington Hospital are abundant for community members who want to get involved with their local community hospital. Volunteers act as receptionists for the hospital, discharge patients, deliver flowers, staff the gift shop, give tours of the birthing center for expectant families and staff the Community Health Resource Library.

"I feel that our volunteers are the key ingredient that helps make the library a success," says Sumedha Shende, Community Health Resource Library Operations Coordinator. "I feel that their communication with patrons and how much they care about the people who walk through our doors makes a tremendous impact."

Volunteers come from all walks of life and contribute a wide variety of talents and experience. Spiritual care volunteers are members of an interfaith group that are on call 24 hours a day and Hospice volunteers visit terminally ill patients. Mended Hearts visitors are volunteers who have had heart surgery in the past and now visit others who have recently had heart surgery.

"Mended Hearts, Chapter 110 volunteers offer wonderful support to patients following heart surgery and related heart issues. They also spend time each month writing and preparing the Mended Hearts monthly newsletter," says Dee Dee Borza, R.N., Washington Hospital's Non-Invasive Cardiology Manager.

Some volunteers help feed patients who are unable to feed themselves. In the Emergency Room, the Surgery Waiting Room, the Washington Radiation Oncology Center and the intensive care and critical care units, volunteers assist patients and their families while awaiting and undergoing treatment.

Washington's Center for Joint Replacement uses volunteers as coaches for patients and several volunteers help in the Pulmonary Rehabilitation department and with the Better Breathing for Life Club. "Our volunteers help in so many ways and they come in with a smile even on last minute projects," says Margaret Chaika, Washington Hospital's Pulmonary Rehabilitation Coordinator.
Patient Companion Program

Washington's Volunteer Patient Companion Program has flourished into a great success this year. This program links patients in need to volunteers who come to their room to chat, read to them or even play cards or a game with them.

"The goal of the Patient Companion Program is to provide our patients an opportunity to have more direct contact with a trained volunteer visitor," explains Elola. "If you can tell a good story and are a great listener, we're looking for you."

Employees who volunteer for the Washington Hospital Employee's Association (WHEA) donated funding to help the new program purchase games, cards, and reading materials for volunteers to use in their interactions with patients.

WHEA Board volunteers organize special events for employees and also facilitate donation drives that help people in our community.
Piano Playing Program

At the end of last year, the Service League received help from the Washington Hospital Healthcare Foundation to help kick start the volunteer piano playing program. The program goal is to bring some musical cheer and relaxation into the lives of hospital patients, visitors and staff. The requirements for piano playing volunteers include a desire to make people feel good through music and having had exposure playing in front of people. Projects like this highlight the contributions of the Foundation's team of volunteers who help raise funds to support the Washington Hospital Healthcare System.
Become a volunteer

If you are interested in becoming a Washington Hospital volunteer, there are many opportunities available. Prospective volunteers are welcome to attend a monthly volunteer information session at Washington Hospital where they will be informed about current volunteer opportunities and requirements for volunteering. Applications are provided at the information session. Volunteers who meet the health, age and background screening requirements must attend an all-day orientation to learn about the hospital's mandatory safety program. All volunteers are asked to volunteer a minimum of twice a month.

The Student Volunteer Program is for young people who are at least 15 1/2-years-old, have sophomore standing, and a "B" or higher grade point average. Student volunteers need a recommendation from their high school counselor and an unofficial copy of their transcript. College volunteers are also welcome. College volunteers need to have a letter of recommendation from a teacher, employer or counselor.

The next volunteer information meeting will take place on Monday, May 22 from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, Room C. For more information about becoming a Washington Hospital volunteer, call (510) 791-3465 or visit the hospital Web site at, click on "Giving to WHHS," and select "Volunteer Opportunities" from the drop-down menu.

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