By Ina Feidelseit

Ina Feidelseit
Ina Feidelseit

In observance of National Volunteer Week (April 21-27), BMH has asked one of its volunteers to contribute a column about her experiences at the hospital.

If you’ve driven past the main entrance of the hospital this year, you’ve caught a glimpse of the Emergency Department construction project taking place. Sometime in the summer of 2013, the hospital will have a new front door in which to welcome the community. What won’t be changing, however, is that the person greeting you there or offering assistance will very likely be a volunteer, like me.

BMH currently has more than one hundred active volunteers. Some work behind the scenes in departments and administrative offices. But a lot of us also interact with the public on a daily basis at the Information desk and in Transportation. Transportation is the department that aids patients and visitors who need a wheelchair, as well as transporting specimens, paperwork or whatever needs to go between departments. I volunteer in both areas, and we’ve been on the front lines of helping people find their way around the hospital since the Richards Building became the primary entryway in November.

Some visitors are unfamiliar with the Richards Building even though it houses many medical services, including the walk-in lab, x-ray imaging, digital mammography, MRI and physical therapy. It is definitely disorienting for someone who is used to coming in through the main entrance. A volunteer has been stationed at an Information desk on both the ground and first floors, right where the corridors connect to the main hospital building, to help people get where they need to go.

The distance between buildings can feel long for people who need assistance to walk or are having respiratory problems. We had planned out the best possible routes for visitors even before they broke ground. Some routes have been adjusted a little as we have learned what works best for certain types of visitors and where they need to go. The volunteer coordinator, JoAnne Rogers, keeps a red binder at every volunteer station with the most recent information. We check it at the beginning of our shifts to see if there have been any changes or updates.

The longer routes have also meant more people are requiring wheelchair assistance than before. This is true for patients as well as the friends and family coming to visit them. JoAnne has made sure there is an ample supply of wheelchairs at the Richards Building entrance. They’re the first things you’ll see when you walk into the lobby. The hallways between the two buildings have ramps and carpeted floors in some sections so please don’t hesitate to get a volunteer instead of having a family member push a wheelchair when one is needed.

I should point out that everybody at the hospital has taken it upon themselves to help with wayfinding during the renovation. Nurses, technicians, physicians, and administration are all directing visitors or escorting them where they need to go. It’s been a nice reminder of what a warm and caring community we have within the hospital. The staff is always supportive of the volunteers and let us know how appreciated our efforts are.

It may be a cliché about volunteering, but I think a lot of my fellow volunteers would agree that the joys of giving flow in both directions. We are all here because we want to help people and know we’re doing something meaningful. As we head into National Volunteer Week, I encourage you all to find a place in the community to donate your time. You’ll quickly discover why I really do believe I get back much more than I give.

Ina Feidelseit has been a volunteer at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital for the past seven years. For information about volunteering at BMH, contact JoAnne Rogers at 802-257-8238.