Volunteers Add that Special Touch

Posted April 20 2017 02:07pm

April 15, 2017 - April 23 to 29 is National Volunteer Week and this year’s theme is Volunteering Eh? Volunteering comes in many forms and is as diverse as Canada itself. This year’s theme encourages us to recognize all volunteer efforts even if it’s not a formal role in an organization.

At Sault Area Hospital (SAH), our 500+ volunteers occupy many formal roles, however, sometimes just their presence or a friendly smile provides reassurance and cheer to patients and staff alike. “Our volunteers are an integral part of SAH operations and without them, the hospital would not be able to provide the support and encouragement patients and families have come to rely on,” says Brandy Sharp Young, Manager of Volunteer Resources. “Whether it’s lending a listening ear or a helping hand or simply wearing a friendly smile, volunteers add that special touch when it comes to supporting patient care and creating a positive hospital experience.”

Our volunteers come from all walks of life and an amazing 20% of our volunteer group is comprised of students. The average number of years of service is 6.5 years, although we are fortunate to have many long-standing volunteers, including two of which have volunteered for over 50 years! From April 2016 to March 2017, our dedicated volunteers contributed over 65,000 hours of service to the hospital and the patients we serve.

“National Volunteer Week is a perfect time to thank our dedicated volunteers for their hard work, loyalty, compassion and generosity,” says Sharp Young. “Their contributions are far reaching, supporting our staff, physicians, patients and everyone who walks through our doors every day.”

Volunteer tasks include anything from providing directions and information, to escorting patients to their appointments, assisting patients in the various patient units and serving on the SAH Board of Directors. “Volunteers are fully integrated in hospital operations and can be found throughout the facility in many departments including Emergency, Day Surgery, Cancer Program, Renal Program, Ambulatory Care, Diagnostic Imaging, Foundation and the cafeteria,” explains Sharp Young.  

The hospital works closely with the local faith community to offer spiritual support services. “We are fortunate to have expanded the Volunteer Resources program to encompass our previously existing Spiritual Services program and are very pleased to be able to provide a complete patient visiting support program to our patients and families.”

According to Sharp Young, skills-based volunteering allows volunteers to put their talents to use and give back to the community, while creating an enriching experience. In addition to their contributions in the clinical areas, volunteers serve on the hospital’s Board of Directors.  Volunteers are also heavily involved in fundraising on behalf of the hospital. The primary function of the Volunteer Association is to raise funds through the Gift Shop, the sale of Nevada tickets and other community events.

“Our Volunteer Association has pledged $200,000 to fund the purchase of a new CT scanner and recently made the second installment of their CT scanner pledge. They have raised $76,000 this year, which brings the total to $146,000 over the past two years,” says Sharp Young. “We are grateful for their contributions.”

In 2013, SAH introduced Patient and Family Advisory Councils (PFAC) which consist of patients and family members who are interested in providing the hospital care team with constructive input for the purpose of improving the overall patient experience. “We have a corporate council, and have recently expanded to three program-based councils in our Cancer Program, our Renal Program, and most recently, in our Mental Health and Addictions Program,” states Sharp Young. “Patients and family members have their own personal experiences with their care at SAH and many have suggestions for improvements. Joining the PFAC is another way that the community can volunteer and get involved with their community hospital,” she adds.

SAH celebrates Volunteer Week in conjunction with the local Canada 150 celebrations and will recognize volunteers at a Canadian-themed come and go event in their honour. SAH also partners with Volunteer Sault Ste. Marie to encourage our volunteers to nominate a peer for the annual volunteer recognition awards. “We thank our wonderful volunteers for their passion, dedication, generosity and for sharing their talents and time with everyone at SAH.”

We are currently recruiting volunteers to assist with our patient visiting program. If you are interested in joining the volunteer team at SAH, contact the Volunteer Resources Department at ext. 5323 or apply online at http://www.sah.on.ca/volunteering/apply-today.

Rose Calibani is the Public Affairs Officer at Sault Area Hospital. We welcome comments and suggestions for future column topics. Please call Public Affairs at (705) 759-3671.