By JoAnne Rogers
National Volunteer Week (April 15-21 this year) was established in 1974 to recognize those who, as President Obama proclaimed in 2011, are “the lifeblood of our schools and shelters, hospitals and hotlines, and faith-based and community groups.” The 110 people who volunteered at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital logged an astounding 19,500 hours of service last year, and every minute of it made a difference in how patients receive care here.
Many of our volunteers come to us after accessing hospital services. Kathleen MacEachern was impressed with the care her son received during a visit. So as she was transitioning into retirement from life as an elementary school teacher, she decided she wanted to give back to BMH.
“I had just moved to Vermont so it was a great opportunity for me to meet people as well,” says Kathleen. “Everyone was so kind and helpful and just welcomed me right in.”
We always start new people on shifts with experienced volunteers to show them the ropes. There is an orientation session where we tell them what’s expected, including the importance of patient confidentiality and privacy. We have some volunteers who spend winters in Florida, so every summer when we do our annual appreciation luncheon we also do a refresher course and I hand out packets with any new information.
Doug Switzer has been a volunteer for so many years that he says he’s lost count. He’s found that the familiarity he has gained about the hospital’s services has been helpful when he requires care.
“When I’m a patient over there I’m much more forthcoming about asking for what I want, and I’m not sure I would be if I were a stranger,” Doug explains. “All of us, most likely, are going to be accessing services there at some point in our lives so it’s good to be comfortable.”
Because it’s a large organization, BMH offers a wide variety of volunteer opportunities. We try to make each assignment fit the individual’s personality so they enjoy the experience as well as help us. We have people who are happy being behind-the-scenes filing or working on a computer, and we have volunteers for the two front desks and in transportation for those who like to have patient interaction and be on the move.
Russ Stevens began volunteering in transportation 18 years ago after retiring from a banking career. He was used to interacting with a lot of people on a daily basis so transportation was the perfect fit for him.
“Every week there is at least one person I help discharge from the hospital that tells me they got great care here,” says Russ. “People are just in awe sometimes, especially out-of-town people that might be here from a city. They say, ‘you don’t realize how wonderful this hospital is.’ It’s just great.”
Transportation is an area we can always use more volunteers. We try to have three volunteers for every shift, plus some back-ups on call in case someone can’t make it. Most volunteers like the transportation department because it’s active. Russ once measured out that he walked five miles in a single day while going around the facility. Barbara Tudda, another volunteer with 18 years under the belt, loves the interaction with patients and staff.
“As volunteers, we have the time to provide warmth and friendliness, and that allows the professional staff to do the work they need to do to make sure people get well,” says Barbara. “Patients, as ill as they are, they’re so grateful for the helpfulness. That touches me.”
The BMH slogan is “Exceptional Care for Our Community.” But having so many members of the community give their time helps us reach that high standard of excellence. To all our volunteers, thank you so much for all you do.
JoAnne Rogers is the volunteer coordinator at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. She can be reached at 802-257-8238.Volunteer Opportunities