Published May 16, 2002
Does your establishment encourage volunteers in helping rock a sick baby or visit with a lonely patient? If so, how does it work and do volunteers help out or really just get in the way?
Both hospitals I have worked at have used volunteers, they have done things like pass out mail, and water, and carry specimens to the lab and give directions. I have never actually had them be involved with a lot of patient interaction. In theory it would be nice to have that, but with all the new confidentiality laws, will that be gone by the wayside too?
Every place I have worked has utilized volunteers to be cuddlers. They have to take a class on handling the babies, feeding and just many of the basics along with learning to recognize stress signals from the little guys. I have always thought they were great. So did the babies that may not get many snuggkes otherwise.
I work on Cardiac surgery, and we have 2 guys who have had CABG who come around and pitch the benefits of cardiac rehab to our pts. They're real nice guys, and I think it's great for pts. to be able to talk to veterans of heart surgery.
We have a ton of volunteers and they do everything from delivering mail, filing and visiting patients. They are probably the nicest people you could hope to meet. They provide a wonderful service to us and I think the volunteering provides something very positive for them.
I actually volunteer at a children's hospital. Volunteers play a HUGE role there. As an ER volunteer, I am pretty much assigned to help out the nurses in any appropriate way I can. I do a lot of making up of rooms, restocking supplies, etc., but I am also called upon to hold down the kids when they're getting IVs, stitches or (on occasion) having a cast put on. I also do a lot of "babysitting" when mom or dad needs to get away for a few minutes for a snack or a smoke. Other details include excorting patients up to get X-rays or to their rooms, running specimens up to the lab, etc.
Floor volunteers, I think, have a lot of patient interaction. They play in the playrooms as well as bring the fun to the bedside. I also suspect that they help out the nurses in other ways as well, but I'm not sure about the details.
One of the more coveted positions (which involves at least a year of floor experience and a detailed training) is in the intensive care nursery, where volunteers get to cuddle babies to their heart's content! (Well, within clear limits.)
In terms of "how it works"....volunteers have a lot of hoops to jump through before they can actually be a volunteer...I had two group training sessions, a one-on-one training, and a round of health clearances to pass before I was allowed to start volunteering. Limits are layed out pretty clearly (don't feed the kids unless you have permission from the doc/nurse; don't transport kids if they're hooked up to the IV; don't go in the trauma rooms when the staff is working on someone; don't violate a patient's confidentiality; etc.) You technically "answer" to the charge nurse, but for the most part I find my own things to do and am sure to ask if I'm ever in question about it's appropriateness.
At our hospital, you are required to put in one 4-hour shift per week for at least 6 months (about 100 hours). Most of the volunteers are college students who are looking to go to med school and need something nice for their resumes, but there are several "old timers" (I consider myself among them, and I'm still in my 20's) who just do it because they love it, and stick around long after they have passed the 100-hour mark. (Okay...the experience doesn't hurt on the nursing applications, either.)
On a particularly nutty day in the ER a few weeks ago, a parent asked me "are you a nurse?" When I explained that I was a volunteer, she replied, "oh, no wonder!...I was wondering why you were so cheerful!" She made me smile, but also made me realize that in these times, when nurses are pulled in SO many directions (and maybe don't get to dispense with as many smiles as they would otherwise like to), volunteers can be a great asset.
dawngloves, BSN, RN
I volunteered at a children's hospital when I was in nursing school and I felt so under utilized. I would pretty much beg for something to do. Nurses acted like I was invisible most days and would get pissed at me if I came to them to ask if I could hold such and such baby or to tell them so and so was wet, poopy, vomiting.
I would give my right arm to have a volunteer work with me now!
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