Jean Reed, director of Volunteer Services at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, feels honored to have such a rewarding job. The Tipton, Iowa, native came to the UI for school, met her husband, and never left. Now she leads the volunteers at UI Hospitals and Clinics to find their gifts and talents, and improve the experience for patients and families.
What do you do here?
“I’m the director of Volunteer Services. Our mission is two-pronged: We provide funding and we provide service to improve the patient-family experience, but that obviously can take a lot of different forms. We have about 1,500 active on-site volunteers in any given year, serving about 120,000 hours of service, or 60 full-time equivalents if you look at it that way. Really we just look across the house and see what needs are not being met and how we might be able to support them. I think there are a lot of little gaps in service and things that might not make sense for paid staff that we can help support and make an impact for our patients and families, and our staff, too.”
How long have you been here?
“I’ve been here 25 years, and I’ve never been in health care before I took this job. I obviously I don’t provide direct patient care, but I can’t imagine working outside of health care now, just because of the opportunity that we have to make a difference in this environment, a lot of times with the smallest of gestures. When people are at their most vulnerable, I think you have a tremendous opportunity, and I’m kind of hooked on that.”
What’s your favorite part of your job?
What’s your most memorable experience?
“There’s no way I could possibly think of a single memorable experience. I think when I talk to new volunteers, I try to encourage them to have the confidence to initiate interactions because it’s a big place. I think our volunteers have a huge opportunity being a little bit more forward than they might otherwise to make a difference in how our guests feel. A lot of times, patients come and they’re overwhelmed by the size, you know, we’re bigger than a lot of the communities they come from across Iowa. You get used to our traffic and our construction, parking in ramps, taking elevators, but those are things that the average Iowan might not do all that often. At new volunteer orientation I ask, ‘How many of you were a little bit anxious about getting here on time today?’ and every hand goes up, so think about how it feels to be a patient living several hours away and all the little anxiety-provoking things. It’s a good way to keep things in perspective—and initiating conversation and elevator etiquette, it’s usually those little things at the end of the day they take home, those are the kinds of things that really have impact.”
If you can have any other job at UI Hospitals and Clinics, what would you want to do?
“I’ve got it. I love my job. I guess, if we had enough dog handler teams here that we could have a full-time coordinator of the Furry Friends program, I would want to do that. It doesn’t really exist, but maybe someday.”