By Michele Pilon
Chief Executive Officer, Transylvania Regional Hospital
As we enter the season of giving, I want to acknowledge a very special group of community members who make a difference at Transylvania Regional Hospital: our dedicated volunteers. They give freely of their time, energy, and kindness, and it makes a world of difference to all of our patients, their families, and our staff.
Kimberly Stewart is TRH’s Volunteer Coordinator and she has been recruiting, placing, and supervising our diverse corps of volunteers for eight years. They fill countless roles at the hospital. “When folks come to the hospital, they have lots of questions, like where a family member’s room, a certain department, or the cafeteria is, and our information desk volunteers provide answers to all of these questions and more. They’re very needed,” Stewart explains.
The volunteers in the outpatient waiting area help patients who come to the hospital for any reason other than emergency care. These volunteers also do things like keep the coffee refreshed and help with patient discharge by wheeling patients out to where they will be picked up, for example. In the Emergency Department, volunteers will follow up with patients and do customer service calls (nonmedical) after discharge to find out how they felt about their experience.
Patient advocate liaisons are volunteers who visit with patients and provide everything from friendly conversation to magazines and puzzle books. Stewart notes that these volunteers’ presence in the hospital matters a lot too, “especially for those patients who don’t get visitors otherwise.” She has also found that patients will voice a need to a volunteer that they might not to a nurse because they worry it would be a bother. “Of course it’s never a bother, because that’s who everyone is here to serve – the patient – but these volunteers will communicate the need that a patient shared with them to a staff member and it will be addressed,” explains Stewart.
Some volunteers choose to work at the Cancer Center and sit with patients while they receive treatment and do other things to make them comfortable, such as getting them blankets, snacks, or drinks. “These volunteers provide all the little extras that can really make a patient feel supported,” Stewart says.
A couple of our very special volunteers at TRH are four-legged. Stewart shares that two therapy dogs visit TRH on a regular basis – with their two-legged owners of course. “Our therapy dogs are definitely the rock stars of the hospital,” she quips, adding that “the staff members benefit from their visits as much as the patients do. We’ve got “Coalby,” a Shih Tzu-poodle mix and “Dash,” a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. They work hard at comforting our patients; I’ve even read that therapy animals take on patients’ emotions and I see how their presence helps our patients tremendously.”
Stewart also credits volunteers for sorting and delivering interoffice mail and packages, and helping with materials management, like organizing and delivering certain medical supplies. “Additionally, we have a couple of volunteers who handle recycling by visiting each department with a wheeled barrel, emptying its recycling, and bringing it all to our main recycling dumpsters,” states Stewart.
Stewart declares that her favorite part of working with TRH volunteers is solving the puzzle of matching each one with the right job. “I tell them where my biggest needs are and something will usually immediately resonate with someone,” she says. “We have about 90 volunteers currently and they’re carefully vetted, but those numbers are constantly shifting due to life changes; I’m always looking for new volunteers. I hear from our volunteers how much they too benefit from their service here.”
Everyone at TRH is grateful for our volunteers, who give to the hospital and our patients. There are countless ways to help, and if you’re interested in volunteering at TRH, please call Kimberly Stewart at 828-883-5130
Michele Pilon, MS, BSN, RN, NE-BC, is Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer of Transylvania Regional Hospital. Her diverse professional experience includes service as a bedside nurse and over a decade as a leader at healthcare institutions in Virginia, Florida and North Carolina. Ms. Pilon earned a Bachelor’s in Nursing from Ohio’s University of Akron and a Masters in Health Services Administration from the University of St. Francis in Illinois; she is also a Board-Certified Nursing Executive.