March 8, 2018

Jackie Medland: Volunteers Add Richness, Joy to Life for Our Patients

By Jackie Medland
President/CNO, Highlands-Cashiers Hospital

Easter calls to mind rebirth, and on the Plateau spring bursts forth with unparalleled beauty. There’s another rebirth happening at Highlands-Cashiers Hospital and the Eckerd Living Center – one that is making a difference in many lives. We are revitalizing our volunteer program, because without our volunteer corps, we simply couldn’t function in the manner that we desire. Since April is National Volunteer Month, there’s no better time than now to talk about the profound difference our volunteers make in the lives of both our patients and our staff.

I’m often struck by how many ways our community members give: they invest in HCH philanthropically, they share their thoughts and ideas with me about making HCH the very best it can be, and our volunteer pool makes our patients’ lives brighter and our staff members’ work lighter. As we reflect on the difference our volunteers have made in the life of HCH over the past year, it’s important to note that we’ve had over 50 active volunteers give their energy and efforts to support their community.  Our volunteers have dedicated over 14,000 hours to us this past year as well, which represents the equivalent of approximately seven full-time employees – that’s remarkable.

Our volunteers perform countless services: they stock our small library, provide clerical support, accompany residents to community activities, tend our gardens, and even bring their pet dogs in to warm both laps and hearts.  For residents who cannot participate in group activities, volunteers provide companionship through conversation, reading, or simply holding a patient’s hand.

Linda Arnold is a wonderful example of our volunteers’ efforts.  She is well loved at ELC, and plays dominoes with the residents, calls BINGO most Friday nights, and leads a women’s devotional group. Volunteers mean so much to our ELC residents. Since these patients receive long-term care, they build rich relationships with our volunteers, and count on seeing them regularly.

We are also fortunate to have our Ladies Auxiliary support the operation of our hospital gift shop, under the dedicated leadership of Patty Hutchins.  The new gift shop’s prominent location means that the volunteers’ faces will be some of the first that our patients and families see when they enter the hospital later this spring.

As one might imagine, to work in a hospital setting potential volunteers must go through background checks, get necessary vaccinations, and schedule their work well in advance, so we know, before they even start.  We want to know that our volunteers are serious about working with us and fit with such a special breed of compassionate human beings.

Aside from acknowledging our current volunteers, I ask our community members to consider devoting some time to HCH or the Eckerd Living Center themselves. Whether it’s on the front lines or behind the scenes, there’s a task that matches each person’s talents.  You will make a difference in the lives of your community members, and I guarantee that you will be a key ingredient in making our community stronger and healthier!

For more information on Highlands-Cashiers Hospital, visit