Mercy Hospital Independence will soon expand its ministry to offer a volunteer support service for patients at the end of life who have no family or loved ones.
Mercy Chaplain Renita Butler explained the “Shepherd’s Watch” supportive volunteer program engages trained volunteers to provide comfort of body, mind and spirit to patients in the dying process. Shepherd’s Watch volunteers work in collaboration with the entire health care team in order to maintain dignity and respect for every person served at the end of life.
“We occasionally have patients in the hospital who are lacking family or friends to provide support at this most delicate time in their lives,” Butler said. “We established this ministry effort because we believe no one should have to die alone.”
Initiated by the hospital’s Pastoral Services Department, Butler explained Shepherd’s Watch simply involves a commitment of volunteers to accompany patients at the end of life. Volunteers are trained to understand what to expect during the dying process, including patients who may be anxious or confused. Each patient will be assigned six volunteers who sit with the patient in four-hour shifts around the clock. The assignments may be for a few hours or could go for several days.
Shepherd’s Watch volunteers will begin serving patients Feb. 1, and currently 12 volunteers are in training. Butler noted there are still openings for volunteers, and anyone interested in being part of this ministry may contact her at 620-719-7676 or by email, Renita.Butler@mercy.net.
“Special skills are not required to assist with this ministry,” Butler said. “You only need a compassionate heart and a desire to serve others.”