In any given year, Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City’s more than 300 volunteers log thousands of hours in service to our co-workers and patients. But for more than a year, almost all of those efforts came to a halt because of the pandemic. While some volunteers continued to knit baby caps for newborns from home and assist in vaccination clinics, most were unable to do the jobs they love. Now, as COVID-19 cases hit new lows, volunteers are eager to get back to work and serve.
“So many of our volunteers serve at Mercy because they truly feel they are called to do this work, and when they couldn’t serve during the height of the pandemic, it was a real challenge for them personally,” said Mel Henry, manager of volunteer services at Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City, recognizing their contributions during National Volunteer Week. “They are often the first and last faces our patients and visitors see as they come in and out of our facilities and they are dedicated to plugging in and helping wherever they are needed. They do so much, and we have missed them tremendously.”
Mercy’s volunteer program was put on hold in spring 2020 as the pandemic began. A few volunteers were welcomed back in November, and more are returning feeling more comfortable after receiving their vaccination.
“Many of the jobs they did on patient floors before the pandemic are not available due to strict COVID-19 precautions, but these volunteers are so selfless that they always tell us to put them wherever they’re needed,” said Henry. “We’ve also been able to create new ways to serve throughout the hospital at screening stations, in the pharmacy and co-worker health.”
Around 100 of the approximately 300 volunteers have returned to service.
“Our volunteers are truly invaluable,” said Jim Gebhart, president of Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City. “Many of our volunteers may not be able to return to our halls anytime soon, mostly because they have underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk for the virus. We are hopeful that others in the community will step in to serve and sign up to volunteer.”
Mercy volunteers include teenagers who want experience in the medical field, middle-aged people looking to give back, seniors who want to stay active and people with disabilities learning job skills. Volunteers commit to as little as one hour a month to as much as 40 hours a week. There are myriad ways in which volunteers serve.
“Studies have shown that when people volunteer, they improve physical health, reduce depression, increase self-worth and are likely to be more connected to their communities,” said Dr. Katherine Garland, an internal medicine physician at Mercy who has long believed that volunteering is a prescription for happiness. “Benefits can be seen at any age, but older adults who volunteer one to two hours a week experience lower rates of depression and an increased lifespan.”
To learn more about volunteering at Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City, click here to visit mercy.net or call (405) 755-1515.