By Victor Montour
President Richard Nixon established National Volunteer Week with an executive order in 1974, as a way to recognize and celebrate the efforts of volunteers. Every sitting U.S. president since Nixon has issued a proclamation during National Volunteer Week (as have many U.S. mayors and governors).
Since then, the original emphasis on celebration has widened; the week has become a nationwide effort to urge people to get out and volunteer in their communities. Every April, charities, hospitals, and communities recognize volunteers and foster a culture of service.
Join your peers nationwide during the 2017 National Healthcare Volunteer Week, April 23-29, in celebrating and recognizing your volunteers’ efforts to advance your organization.
This is an opportunity for you to recognize the integral role volunteers play in advancing patient engagement and quality care. In an effort to showcase the roles of volunteers at Front Range Hospice and Palliative Care, I reached out to our volunteers and asked them questions to help me get a better picture of their role and the complexity of it.
Like many people, Rita Boreiko decided to volunteer with hospice after a personal encounter with the services, for a family member in Canada. Rita noted the systems are rather different there in Canada, the atmosphere of caring and comfort around the patient’s end of life was important, and Rita wanted to help perpetuate that for others. Rita has always had an affinity for older people, appreciating their years of experience and perspective.
Rita went on to tell us about one of her most rewarding experiences while volunteering in hospice. This patient was essentially unable to speak or function above the level of a young child. Every time Rita saw him, she brought a picture book which dealt with topics that had been of interest to him as a healthy adult, and he appeared to enjoy Rita’s discussion of them with him, the patient even attempting to say a few words. After a few visits, the patient would see Rita approaching the common area where he sat, and would wave at her and smile. The staff at the facility were astounded, and said that he hadn’t recognized anyone for a long time. His obvious anticipation was a special reward to Rita, telling her that she was bringing some happiness into his life.
Rita would tell anyone considering volunteering with hospice to look carefully at their motivation and personality, what they hope to accomplish, and what they expect in return, in terms of what they need in order to feel that their work and time are worthwhile. Rita says in many cases, thanks are not able to be expressed either verbally or by actions, and there are numerous times when volunteer visits appear not to be wanted.
Rita goes on to say, sometimes the volunteer is the only available sounding board for complaints, and you just have to listen patiently and try to understand how the patient could be feeling. Rita also found that a volunteer must be comfortable with silence, allowing the patient to choose the time and manner of interaction with the understanding every patient and every visit has to include the acceptance that the relationship you’re developing is temporary, and at the end of it there will inevitably be sadness and loss. This is particularly true for longer-term patients whom the volunteer can come to know quite well. All that being said, Rita has found that volunteering has taught her many things: about herself, about listening, about acceptance, about life – though not really about death. And it is a rewarding and worthwhile experience.
Cecilia Cervajal was part of a spiritual group many years ago which was looking into volunteering projects within the Denver-Boulder area. Working with this group Cecilia started her volunteering in hospice. Cecilia finds it most rewarding to be present with those patients who are actively dying, supporting her patients, families and loved ones with death itself.
Cecelia would tell anyone who is considering volunteering for a hospice to know it is a commitment worth making. She says you will care for others, yourself and learn the love and compassion that comes with dying.
Volunteers are the heart of Front Range Hospice and Palliative Care. They work as a part of the palliative care team to provide a special kind of compassion for our patients and their families. Whether it is offering a unique presence, offering a listening ear, providing grief support, or supporting the administrative tasks of our hospice, the time that our volunteers give to Front Range Hospice allow our hospice to provide exceptional care to our patients and their families.
Front Range Hospice and Palliative Care is always looking for caring loving volunteers to join our team. If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering with Front Range Hospice and Palliative Care please call 303-957-3101 or 970-776-8080, you can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.