The first thing you notice is a cheerful blue vest. As you get a little closer you spot a warm smile beginning to appear. One step closer and you see bright, caring eyes focused on you. The pace quickens toward you and you are warmly greeted with, ''Hi, how can I help you?'' You feel reassured, less anxious and have met an unexpected friend. You're thinking, ''Wow, help appears almost magically and without asking. This is wonderful!''
This scene repeats itself many times every day at Trinity Regional Medical Center. Trinity volunteers help direct, escort, befriend and offer their special kind of compassion and care to our patients, guests and staff. If you've been to Trinity before you almost certainly will look for a blue vested volunteer to help you.
Our volunteers are here to offer an extra layer of care and support to our patients, visitors and staff. While our volunteers do not perform clinical functions, the work they do allows our staff to provide the medical expertise they are trained to perform. A seemingly simple act of escorting family members allows our nurses to provide continual patient care and keep their focus on our patients.
Simply escorting a guest to their destination is not an insignificant thing. Volunteers have the opportunity to visit, keep a guest or patient's mind off their concerns, ensure they arrive at the right place and quietly show another human that someone cares about them.
Trinity Regional Medical Center has volunteers from all walks of life, representing every decade, experience level and education. A common question is, ''Is it necessary to have a medical background to volunteer at Trinity?'' Absolutely not. We have bankers, teachers, farmers, bookkeepers, secretaries, accountants, homemakers, students, Realtors, gardeners, business men and women, and even nurses. Many of these people are retired but not all of them. Everyone over the age of 16 is welcome to complete a volunteer application and every applicant receives a private interview to familiarize them with our program and ensure their purposes are in sync with Trinity's.
What is required of a volunteer?
The most important requirement for becoming a volunteer is a sincere desire to help. We can train our volunteers to perform any of our assigned duties as long and their heart is open and their intentions are good.
We have volunteer opportunities for almost everyone. If a potential volunteer's physical limitations don't include walking or pushing a wheelchair, we have reception and office duties available. We have duties for folks who like to sit, stand, walk, talk, alphabetize and organize. Our volunteer program is organized, structured and an integral department of Trinity. Every volunteer is continually trained and educated on duties and information relating to our medical center. Volunteers are considered a vital part of our work force.
The answer to that question could fill this newspaper. There are as many reasons to volunteer as there are volunteers, but almost every volunteer has told me they get more out of volunteering than they give. That's hard to comprehend because their time, compassion and service are absolutely invaluable. Our volunteers have told me they volunteer because:
I want to give back.
I want to be part of something meaningful.
It's my hobby.
I want to learn new skills.
I can share my talents.
It helps me forget my own aches and pains.
I want to make a difference.
It keeps my mind and body active.
It's great exercise.
This is an extension of my faith and beliefs.
I want to be around people.
It feels so good to help.
I was lonely.
It's so much fun.
It's feels so good to be appreciated and needed.
I was a patient at the hospital and I saw how much the volunteers helped and were needed.
Although I can't afford to donate money I can give of myself and my time.
The surprise for many volunteers is that once they begin volunteering they become part of a close-knit family. Our volunteers have become friends with each other and met people they may never have encountered otherwise. Volunteering opens up a whole new world of social networking. Our volunteers also tell me that volunteering has deepened their compassion and empathy for others. Almost every one of them has expressed how good they feel helping others; the gift of giving is amazingly powerful. There are numerous documented studies proving that volunteerism is good for your health. We can measure endorphins, lowered blood pressure and levels of dopamine; but how do you measure a happy, fulfilled heart?
The value of volunteering
The true value of volunteering is not measurable in numbers. How do you measure compassion, reassurance and human kindness? Intangibles are the true value of volunteering; it's not possible to measure the positive effect of volunteering, but we have some impressive figures to show the impact volunteers at TRMC made last year:
In 2008 our volunteers performed 21,021 hours of service.
This equals 9.63 full-time employees working 40 hours a week.
The monetary value of these hours was $390,609.
(We use the source called the Independent Sector to calculate the value of volunteer time. This value is based on the average hourly earnings for private nonagricultural workers as determined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and then increased by 12 percent to estimate fringe benefits. In 2008 the value for a volunteer hour was $19.51 an hour.)
Our volunteers help in nearly 30 different areas and departments of Trinity, virtually touching every area of our medical center. They also have a presence in our community through services such as SHIIP, Lifeline, Nutrition Puppet Shows, Tele-Care, Trip to Trinity, Wellness Screenings, Blood Pressure Screenings and Dessert with the Docs.
I tell all our new employees and volunteers, "Our volunteers do not work for pay. It's not because they are worthless - it's because they are priceless. We could never afford to pay them what they are worth." This week we are celebrating National Health Care Volunteer Week. Trinity Regional Medical Center employees will be wearing stickers that say "We love our volunteers." Please join me in giving my heartfelt thanks to our volunteers for sharing their time, gifts and compassion.
If you're interested in becoming a member of our volunteer family please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-6099. I'd love to visit with you. I promise you it will be one of the most rewarding things you've ever done.
Kathy Moe, CAVS, is manager of volunteer services at Trinity Regional Medical Center.