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Volunteers make all the difference at Carle Health

Volunteers make all the difference at Carle Health

Whether they are a high school senior with ambitions of working in healthcare or a retiree escorting patients where they need to go, volunteers in the Carle Health system bring a common spirit of care and giving.

There are 2,111 volunteers across the Carle Health system who give more than 185,000 volunteer hours annually at a value of more than $5.9 million. The healthcare system is always grateful for the support volunteers bring to patient care and the influence of volunteers is even more apparent during National Volunteer Week, April 21-27.

“With services such as comfort rounds, escorting and performing live music, volunteers touch lives of patients, visitors and staff each day as they cultivate human connections and impact the patient experience. Additionally, the auxiliaries and leagues across the system support patient initiatives through fundraisers, gift shops and resale boutiques,” Eric Toliver, director, Auxiliary and Volunteer Services, said.

For Tom Hunsley, volunteering began in 2010 at what is now Carle Health Methodist Hospital when his wife – a longtime hospital employee – suggested a volunteer escort position as a way for him to stay busy.

“I have really enjoyed the opportunity to help others and to be a goodwill ambassador for the hospital.  To help patients and visitors find their way within the hospital is a pleasure and makes me feel like I can be useful in doing something for others,” Hunsley said.

Carle Foundation Hospital gift shop volunteer Carla Kurtz creates flower arrangements and believes the same. “A welcoming smile, a cheerful hello, or a simple kind gesture is all it takes to brighten someone’s day and that is why I enjoy volunteering because it gives me an opportunity to do those things for others.”

“It is a wonderful feeling to know I might brighten someone’s hospital stay by creating a special flower arrangement,” Kurtz said.

Traveling to Carle BroMenn Medical Center in Normal with her four-legged companion and certified therapy dog Betty Boop, Rhea Mays with Hound Rounds said, “We don’t even look at ourselves as volunteers.” A volunteer since 2006, Mays said she and her dog enjoy valet parking at the hospital to keep Betty Boop’s paws clean after her bath.  “Sometimes they call me Betty’s staff.”

“When we walk into the hospital, we are always positive,” she said. Besides stopping in to see patients accepting visitors, Mays and Betty visit the intensive care unit where staff have their own set of pressures.

“To be included is really a complement,” she said. Hound Rounds has 13 visiting dogs and owners at Carle BroMenn who are members and self-insured by the Alliance of Therapy Dogs.

Other volunteers are students about to embark on learning more about a healthcare career. Pekin Community High School senior Cali Rhodes and Richland County High School senior Cali Wingert take job-like experiences as volunteers with them as they graduate from high school.

After high school, Wingert, a licensed pharmacy tech who also works part-time in a retail pharmacy, plans to complete required introductory courses at Olney Central College before heading to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville to focus on becoming a pharmacist. Rhodes, now completing a certified nursing assistance program through her high school, is heading to Bradley University to become a registered nurse.

Both volunteers said they wanted to help out at the hospitals and do some job shadowing at the same time. For Wingert, volunteer duties include stocking shelves and removing expired medication while volunteer work for Rhodes includes taking blood work or urine to the lab for testing and sometimes observing nurses performing duties such as inserting a catheter.

“I love having student volunteers,” Sara Buehnerkemper, PharmD, director of Ancillary Services at Carle Richland Memorial Hospital, said. Wingert first volunteered in the Emergency Department at the hospital and then her high school co-op instructor reached out asking about an opportunity for Cali in the pharmacy.

“I want our pharmacists to look at it as a mentoring opportunity. She asks a lot of really good questions for all of us. For Cali, I hope she has a better understanding of how the medication she is dispensing will help others have the best health outcome. Having a volunteer but knowing you are also mentoring the future of healthcare is very powerful,” Buehnerkemper said.

Categories: Culture of Quality, Community