Volunteers Play Important Role in Hospitals

ARLINGTON, Texas — Volunteers are as much a part of the foundation of a hospital as its medical staff and equipment.

Whether delivering flowers with a smile or raising funds to purchase the latest medical equipment, volunteers are an important asset to Texas Health Resources (THR) and, more importantly, the to patients it serves.

The 1,700 volunteers at THR’s 13 hospitals donated 220,000 hours of service in 2001. Based on a nationally accepted hourly value of $13.84, that totals $3 million in service to patients and hospitals.

"Volunteers are an important part of the health care delivered to the patients we serve every day," said Doug Hawthorne, THR president and CEO. "Often, a volunteer is the first person a patient’s family sees when they come into the hospital, at the information desk in the main lobby or the surgery waiting room."

But volunteers receive something in return, too.

"According to the American Hospital Association, studies indicate that volunteering is good for your mental and physical health," Hawthorne said. "In today’s high-tech world, many people are yearning for high-touch opportunities."

April is National Volunteer Month.

Who are the volunteers?

They are people who have been contributing to the community for years. Some are homemakers, some are retired businessmen, and others are retired health-care workers. At Arlington Memorial Hospital, they include a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general. At Harris Methodist Erath County, the hospital’s first employee reported for volunteer duty on the day after he retired.

Junior programs offer volunteer opportunities for youth ages 14 to 18. Seven THR hospitals have junior volunteer programs.

What do volunteers do?

Some volunteers are very visible. They deliver flowers, mail and patient menus. They help patient families at information desks in the lobbies and waiting rooms. Some volunteers perform behind-the-scenes duties, such as delivering medication to nursing units, providing administrative support in the recovery rooms, assisting with mailings and routine clerical work, running errands throughout the hospital or answering telephones.

What else do they contribute?

Through their fund-raising efforts, volunteers are able to provide THR hospitals with hardware and software: hardware, such as defibrillators and surgical drills; software, such as teddy bears for pediatric ER and surgery patients and new drapes for patient rooms. Some make quilts for neonatal unit patients. Almost all donate toward student scholarships.

To recognize the efforts of its volunteers, THR has created a Helping Hands Award for volunteers who show a commitment to the highest levels of quality and service, inspire others and "live the mission." The mission of Texas Health Resources is "To improve the health of the people in the communities we serve." To date, the winners include Vivian Galusha, Harris Methodist H•E•B Hospital; Jim Howard, Harris Methodist Southwest Hospital; and Valerie Pedersen, Presbyterian Hospital of Plano.