When patients or families need to spend a little extra time talking or being comforted, volunteer nurses are there. For nearly 10 years, volunteer nurses have been helping patients at Mercy Hospital St. Louis. When it started in 2002, the Volunteer Nurse program was the first of its kind in the US. Since then, program founder and clinical supervisor Sally Rundquist, RN, has presented at conferences and helped start similar programs in more than 70 hospitals across the country.
“Volunteer nurses provide hands-on care for patients and have the flexibility to give special attention to patients,” Rundquist said. “Staff nurses are delighted to have the extra help that these volunteer nurses can give them for direct patient care within the hospital or for follow-up phone calls to check on recently discharged patients.”
The Volunteer Nurse program allows nurses to function at a professional level as volunteers and was started to compliment the current hospital work force enhancing patient care. Volunteer nurses work in a variety of areas at Mercy Hospital St. Louis, including the emergency department, medical/surgical unit and the main nursery, under the supervision of a staff RN. They assist with daily activities including taking vital signs, feeding patients, passing food trays and providing additional support or information to patients and families.
Typically, volunteers are retired RNs and LPNs who still want to offer their services for patient care, or are nurses who have been away from nursing and would like to get back into their profession. To date, there are 36 volunteer nurses active at Mercy Hospital St. Louis. They are also active in community projects that the hospital sponsors such as the Heart to Heart Fair held each February.
Mary Beth McGraw, 52, of St. Louis, has been a volunteer nurse at Mercy Hospital St. Louis since Nov. 2009. “After working in nursing most of my life, when my kids left the nest I decided to do this. I can choose my schedule and get to use my skills to help people.”
Volunteer Nurses must attend a two-day orientation and competency class at Mercy Hospital St. Louis. This serves as a refresher course and defines the duties and responsibilities of volunteer nurses. Requirements also include CPR-certification and an active license for RNs. Mercy Hospital St. Louis will pay for a license renewal, if needed.
For more information, or to sign up for this program, please call Sally Rundquist, clinical supervisor for the Volunteer Nurse program, at 314-251-4268.