Volunteer Corner: Family of compassionate hospital volunteers

Hospital volunteers are treated special, including, from left, Vivien Nason, Cindy Manning, Noreen Hackett, Donna Carey, Bobbie Kearns, Mike Kearns and Judy Vertucci.

Even though the candy striper cliché is ancient history, volunteers at Santa Cruz Valley Regional Hospital still retain that positive influence and upbeat approach, providing essential services to patients and professional staff.

“They are the backbone of all hospitals,” declared Paul Williams, a community health care advocate and valued consultant doing pro bono work as their Community Outreach Representative.

With 40 years of experience in marketing, merchandising, and training development on the international stage, Williams has been involved directly with medical facilities in health care and education, so he understands the importance of volunteers and holds all 120 of them at SCVRH in high regard.

“They are here as much for the hospital as paid employees,” he says.

Meagan Camacho, Volunteer Coordinator and Direct Assistant to the CEO, agrees. “Our volunteers are so compassionate,” she says. “They treat it like it’s their job.”

With 14 years of medical administrative experience, Camacho says this is where she wants to be. She also oversees a Pastoral Care program of 10 local clergy volunteers. “They see it as a very positive way to give back to the community,” she points out.

Camacho gets very close to all the volunteers, and they are close to staff and each other. “I feel like we’re one big family,” she notes.

Williams and Camacho both feel the hospital is on the right path and growing. With 49 private rooms and their own physician's group — as well as kidney, heart, pain, neurological, surgery, urology, ear, nose, and throat, and orthopedic services on site — they were named the No. 1 ER destination in 2018 by the Green Valley Fire District. Many local residents patronize their restaurant — no stereotypical hospital food there.

Volunteers are mostly retirees, compassionate people who are also appreciative of the opportunity to receive great training, encouragement, and immediate positive and sometimes emotionally gratifying feedback. They do a four-hour shift once a week in a variety of positions in roughly eight different categories:

• Concierge desk: Positive personalities greet and direct everyone who comes into the hospital, including patients, visitors, vendors, visiting doctors, and others. They are trained to provide first contact information and use a new detailed map Williams has created for them.

• Gift shop: Volunteers do everything expected in any small retail operation, while giving visiting families and friends a break from the stress of the moment. “There are a lot of handmade items from local artisans,” Camacho noted.

• Emergency room or surgery room: Volunteers here help patients and loved ones navigate through a stressful time of procedures and anxious waiting. A retired nurse is developing a plan, Williams said, to further train volunteers to essentially become patient advocates, so they can provide much-needed comfort and support during a difficult experience.

• In-patient messenger: They “gofer” whatever nurses or patients need or request, such as books, magazines, and other items.

• Restaurant: They perform duties that help maintain quality meal service, as well as attractive offerings for the public.

• Materials management: They work behind the scenes, loading and storing items and pieces of equipment the hospital needs to operate smoothly and efficiently. “They prefer the quiet, but even though they don’t meet the public, they are very important,” Williams said.

• Clerical: They help with special events and records.

It can be extremely rewarding to work where you can directly witness the positive effects of your own efforts. Camacho beams whenever she mentions her volunteers. “I care about them, not just what they’re doing. They are special people so we treat them very special.”

Contact the Green Valley-Sahuarita Volunteer Clearinghouse at its website: gvsvolunteering.org

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