April is Volunteer Appreciation month. And although recognition for volunteers peaks during this month, the value for the men and women who give of their time is always appreciated. A volunteer can be described as a person who freely gives of themselves to a person or organization. Mercy Hospice is fortunate to have people that are called to fulfill this role.
Since its beginning in July 2012, Mercy Hospice has served 119 patients and families within a 50 mile radius of Fort Scott. With a team approach, the Mercy Hospice physician, nurses, social worker and chaplain work alongside the most unsung hero on the team – the hospice volunteer -- to care for patients with a life-limiting illness. The team collaborates with the patient and family throughout the patient’s disease process and continues to follow the family in bereavement up to a year.
Hospice volunteers can do a number of things. They may choose to do patient-centered care like Barbara McDaniels and Jim Barrows or support the hospice program with clerical duties like Peggy Stevens.
McDaniels says she became interested in being a hospice volunteer about a year before she retired. “I had taken care of patients as a nurse aide for years and didn’t really want to slow down so volunteering seemed natural,” she explains. “Volunteering with hospice is a wonderful way to spend my time.”
Currently volunteers range from people in their early 20’s to 79 and retired. Each person brings their unique gifts and talents to help the patient and family. Often the presence of a hospice volunteer helps the patient and their loved ones find peace and understanding.
“My role,” says Barrows, “is sitting with patients and their families, primarily just talking and listening to their stories and thoughts. I’ve met some truly amazing people who have a tremendous outlook regardless of what tomorrow may bring.”
“The most memorable experience for me was when a patient reached out to me, took my hand and prayed for me in my role as a hospice volunteer.”
Volunteers devote their time, as little as one hour a week or as many as they want doing what they do best; helping patients and families. The Mercy Hospice Volunteer Coordinator uses a match-making system similar to that of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program to pair similar backgrounds and interests to bring the patient and volunteer together. Many form a lasting friendship through their illness.
Barbara shares, “One of the patients I sat with shared that he had recently restored an antique pump organ. I was amazed by it so I asked a lot of questions. He got up, showed me how it worked and began playing it for me. That was something his family said he hadn’t done in quite some time.”
Most hospice volunteers find the experience to be one of their most rewarding. “Being a Mercy Hospice volunteer is far more rewarding than any volunteer role I’ve ever had before,” says Barrows. “Being on a committee or board is an important role, but working with someone who knows the imminent and still approaches each day with a great outlook is inspirational to me. I highly encourage others to be a hospice volunteer and give just a bit of their time even if just a few hours a week. It’s time well spent.”
McDaniels explains, “I feel being a hospice volunteer differs from other volunteer work because I can develop a close relationship with the patient and their families at a very difficult time.”
There are plenty of roles for the hospice volunteer depending on the individual’s interests:
Interested in learning more? Attend the Hospice Volunteer Training on May 8 and 9 from 1—5 p.m. at the Fort Scott Hospice Office at 902 S. Horton. The training consists of lecture, group discussions, presentations and some educational DVD’s. You must be at least 18 years of age and can pass a background check along with attending training. Participants will receive a certificate of completion and be ready support patients and the program. Call LaShawn Miller at 223-8532 for more details. An application is available online at www.mercy.net/hospicevolunteerapplication Ensure that your location is marked Fort Scott, KS at the top right hand of the web page.