Our Stories: Through the Eyes of our Volunteers

It was over a year ago now I shared my first story in this blog, and my goal remains the same: to provide a forum to share our stories, to highlight the immense impact that each and every one of us can have on one life, and to show the great things that happen here each and every day. One great thing here at UI Hospitals and Clinics is our Volunteer program. It is an extraordinary program that has stood the test of time, and those who make up this wonderful program continue to make a difference every day.

I have asked Jean Reed, Director of Volunteer Services, to give her thoughts on how our amazing volunteer program has impacted our institution, each and every day:

Last week was National Volunteer Week, an annual celebration observed in many countries to promote and show appreciation for volunteerism and volunteering. You do not need to spend a great deal of time at our hospital to see the tremendous impact our amazing volunteer team has on the patient experience here.

In any given year, over 1,400 individuals choose to volunteer their time with us. They attend orientations and trainings, have TB tests, immunizations and health screenings, pass criminal background checks, take competency quizzes, provide letters of recommendation and sign confidentiality statements – all for the privilege of servings alongside us… without pay. There are about 1,400 different reasons people make this choice every year, the motivations are as varied as the volunteers themselves. But the thread that connects them, and hopefully every one of us, is the opportunity to make a difference. No matter what your role, the good you do ultimately has an impact on a single person, and nowhere is that more simply seen than in the reflections of our volunteers:

“Today was really great. I got to speak with a patient for almost 2 hours about her family and all of the great recipes she makes. When her family came in, one of her daughters stopped me later and said that I made the patient’s day. I love being able to make such an impact on these patients’ lives.”

“Today I had a patient’s dad come find me after his daughter was done with her appointment to thank me for being a volunteer. It made me feel like I was making a difference!

“Today was busy, and I took lots of patients out. One patient’s family was so thankful that they even gave me a hug! It’s so nice that a small act can mean so much to people.”

We thank our volunteers for choosing to spend their time here, but we also thank our staff and faculty for welcoming them onto the care team. At our academic medical center, our volunteers appreciate the teaching mindset they encounter in service here:

“There are times that I have doubts about becoming a nurse. But every time I volunteer in the ASC, those doubts fade away because of the amazing nurses who I get to work with! #Careergoals”

“Today was a great shift. I got to talk with a lady who was lonely and get to know her while also letting her know me. I overheard the patient’s family members all talking about how awesome every nurse has been toward the patient. What a great group of nurses to be mentored and surrounded by. I hope one day that’s said about me!”

“Today was great! I was reminded again why I love this unit—someone was undergoing respiratory distress, the room was packed with doctors and nurses—it is so great to see them working so well together!

Could there be greater confirmation of the rewarding nature of this environment than the 120,000 hours our volunteers choose to contribute here in service to our mission every single year? That these team members contribute the equivalent of nearly 60 full-time positions is the big volunteer picture. But it is the personal stories that remind each of us that the reason we are here is for that one patient:

“I forgot how much the little things mean to the kids and families. Even just sanitizing wall toys reassures parents about their child’s care here. One mother thanked me for cleaning the wall toys and it made me realize how important it is to keep the unit clean. Small things matter!”

“I told a patient that I was an engineering student only to find out that the patient was an engineer themselves! They were very excited to be able to talk to me about something we were both passionate about. It was a great moment of forming a connection with a patient.”

“A young patient, not much younger than I, needed escort. While I was taking him out we had a fantastic conversation about school, life, and our plans. When we got to his car his mom looked at me in the eyes and said, ‘I haven’t heard him carry a conversation like that ever!’ I was very pleased to know we could share that conversation.”

“I had a great time today because the unit was so busy! I discharged three patients and visited with almost every patient on the floor, and they were all so nice and sweet. One woman had been waiting for her ride for a long time, so I wheeled her around the third floor to see all the paintings and outside the unit, so she could have a change of scenery. She was so appreciative, and it made my day!”

“The coolest thing about this unit is that I get to have real conversations with the patients. I spent a lot of time with a woman still grieving a loss. She thanked me for listening and said I was the first person she was willing to talk about it to in a long while. I’m thankful I’m able to be a part of this unit and get to have these experiences.”

“My most meaningful experience this month was getting to help a patient eat his lunch. He really did not want to eat anymore, and he kept telling me stories so he wouldn’t have to. I learned a lot about his life as a farmer, but also convinced him to eat a little too. It was a win-win!

“A patient was being discharged and I got to wheel her down with her family as they were leaving. This has been the highlight of my volunteering thus far, because I knew it was the happiest day that family has seen in a while. They were so excited to be going home together and could not stop smiling, and I was so glad I got to be a part of their day. It had me smiling all day!”

Seeing the impact of the care provided, through the eyes of our volunteers, inspires me! It should make each of us appreciate the wonderful privilege that we are all given each and every day. I’m inspired not only by these stories, but by the volunteers in our UI Health Care family who give the best of themselves each and every day—for that one person.   If you have the opportunity to spend time with them, they will fill your tank! They are the happiest people on earth, and I believe that this stems from the unconditional personal giving that they do every day. The volunteers on our team make it a better place for our staff, our patients, and our families of course, and their enthusiasm for our mission makes me grateful to be a part of this team, too.

Thank you volunteers, staff, faculty, and students alike for all you do to create “Our Stories”! Please take a moment to thank a volunteer today!!

—Theresa Brennan, MD, Chief Medical Officer

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