Annual Report 2010/11
Inspire Our People

One students’ path to medical school started with volunteering

Volunteers play a crucial role in how our patients experience the care they receive by us throughout our organization. Whether it’s a welcoming smile or answering questions, our volunteers aim to support patients and their families as soon as they come through our doors.

Adrienne Elbert, a university student who has volunteered in our Emergency Department (ED) since 2008, always knew she wanted to volunteer in a hospital to observe the medical environment, interact with a variety of people and make a difference in the lives of others. For individuals who want to give their time to St. Joseph’s, we aim to provide them with a volunteer experience that’s rewarding and beneficial. For Elbert, it has helped her to prepare for the next stage of her life – medical school.

“What attracted me most to St. Joe’s was the Mission and Values and when doing my research (on where to volunteer), I wanted to give my time to a hospital where I could really contribute,” said Elbert. “Our role is really to make the patients comfortable in a non-medical way and interact with others to provide emotional support.”

As a volunteer, Elbert provides a comforting presence to patients and families who are anxiously waiting for treatment, test results, or news about a loved one in the ED. She is one of over 230 volunteers at St. Joseph’s who represents the growing number of student volunteers interested in health care related careers and seeking exposure to the health care environment to prepare them for the work force. When Elbert isn’t spending time with patients, she’s working towards her Masters degree on the genetics of learning disabilities and started a combined MD/PhD program last fall at the University of Western Ontario.

“Our Emergency Department volunteers are selected for this area because they understand the need for emotional support and the value of listening. They have strong communication skills that enhance overall department communication and they can provide support in a non-judgmental manner that respects the Health Centre’s Mission and Values,” explains Maureen Ford, Manager of Volunteer Services. “Some are students interested in health care careers; some are foreign trained doctors looking for exposure to the Canadian system. Most importantly, they all care about our commitment to Put Patients First.”

Adds Ford, “I was thrilled but not surprised, when Adrienne Elbert was accepted to medical school. All of my observations lead me to believe Adrienne's personal strengths and outstanding dedication will be a valuable asset to the medical profession - I look forward to following her career.”

Elbert has also taken on a leadership role for this volunteer area, mentoring and training new volunteers assigned to serving in the ED. Each volunteer receives 12 hours of training prior to starting in the ED and volunteers are present seven days a week. There are 56 individuals in total giving their time to our ED patients.

“There are a lot of elderly patients that I see in the main bed area, where interaction is more about having conversations with them,” said Elbert “In the waiting room, we can help alleviate some the stress the patients are feeling by the letting them know that they haven't been forgotten and that the staff are working hard to see them as quickly as possible.”

Donna Hess, Patient Care Manager for the Emergency Department explains the team is so thankful to have volunteers in the department. “Volunteers play a very valuable role in the ED by helping the patients communicate their needs and liaising with our staff. They are integral members of our team, who truly aim to provide our patients with a more enjoyable experience while they are in our care.”

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