The desire to help others was the top reason people gave for responding to Thursday’s forum about the need for more emergency department volunteers at Kent Hospital, as two one-hour sessions were held at the hospital to educate potential volunteers.
The department’s volume of patients ranks among the top 10 percent nationally and serves nearly 60,000 patients a year. While more than 500 volunteers put in more than 35,000 hours last year, Director of Volunteer Services Jody Miguel says even more are needed since the department recently made significant changes with a new rapid assessment model for patients.
The model has dramatically reduced and, in many instances, nearly eliminated waiting time. The estimated time dropped from eight hours to an hour and a half from 9 a.m. through 9 p.m. every day.
However, hours are expanding in the next couple of months and more volunteers are in demand for first, second and third shifts to enhance the patient and family experience.
“We couldn’t do it without you,” Miguel said to more than a dozen potential volunteers Thursday morning. “Volunteer services have taken a very substantial role in what we do in the department. We provide training to all volunteers in all different areas, specifically in the emergency department. An experienced volunteer will show you the ropes before you go off on your own. We want you to feel comfortable.”
Miguel said the hospital has volunteers who range in age from 14 to 98. No matter a person’s age, the hospitals needs them.
“You may impact a patient or staff member with your smile or kind nature,” she said.
Also, said Miguel, there are many benefits of being a volunteer, like feeling gratified in assisting those in need of comfort or a kind word. Additionally, incentives such as a variety of educational opportunities, including computer classes, medical terminology and seminars, are offered.
All volunteers are treated to a meal per shift and are especially honored every April, during National Volunteer Week.
But for future and current volunteers, just being there for others is motivation enough. According to Warwick retiree Paul Rouquie, he wants to become part of the team at Kent because it is the right thing to do.
“I believe we’re here on earth to be of service to others and I think it’s a good opportunity to help people when they are probably at their most vulnerable,” he said.
Chris Parenteau of Coventry and Gail DuPont of West Warwick agreed. They became aware of the event through a press release in the Warwick Beacon and immediately knew they wanted to sign up.
“As a patient, you’re so nervous and unsure of what’s going to happen and it’s nice if you give them a kind word or take a few minutes to say, ‘It’s going to be OK. You’re in a great place that’s going to take care of you,’” said DuPont.
Warwick residents Alyssa DiMaio and Beth Velis said they were inspired to volunteer because their loved ones were involved with the hospital. DiMaio’s mother and grandmother are former volunteers and Velis’ father used to work at Kent as a cardiologist, while her mother serves as a volunteer.
“I want to give back to the community,” Velis said.
Sandy Buote of Cranston feels the same. After retiring in December, she said she’s pleased to have time to assist the hospital’s mission.
“I’ve always enjoyed meeting people, and helping them if they need it,” said Buote, who has been a volunteer at Women & Infants for more than 20 years.
Barry Blackington, a Navy veteran, shares her sentiments.
“My interest would be older patients or veterans that just need someone to talk to.”
His son, also named Barry, who just graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a degree in Political Science and Mandarin Chinese, feels the same.
“I’m looking to get a little experience at a hospital,” he said.
Marge Jordan, Jim Ryan and Paul Torti are currently volunteers. They each said the experience is rewarding.
“I feel like I’m helping people when they are distraught,” said Jordan, who has been a volunteer at Kent for three years, while Ryan, a volunteer for the last 17 years who also has been a patient at the hospital, said, “I like giving back to the community.”
Torti, who has been a volunteer since 1997, said the opportunity to work with health care professionals is exciting.
“Just being around the nurses, doctors and all the people who work here charges you up,” he said.
After volunteers sign up, they meet with Miguel so she can best determine whether the emergency room is the right fit for the individual and the hospital. Reference and background checks are also done.
Volunteers usually work at least a four-hour shift, while others put in six to eight hours per shift, if needed. Of course, some do more, or less, if needed.
“We’re really flexible,” Miguel said. “We work with you and your schedule, but we require a minimum of a four months commitment.”
After training, the real work begins.
“When a patient first walks into the emergency room, they are greeted by a volunteer and they bring you right into the registration area where techs take the patient’s vitals,” Miguel said. “The volunteer isn’t determining what patient has what diagnosis. They are handing them off to the clinicians.”
The hospital also uses other types of volunteers, such as “lab runners,” who bring samples to the appropriate people within the hospital, as well as “runners” who support staff members.
“We have such great volunteers and they are so dedicated,” Miguel said. “They go above and beyond to give back and are so committed.”
For more information, contact the Department of Volunteer Services at 737-7000 ext. 31328 or visit kenthospital.org.