Four years ago, when Tina Beasley accepted the job as coordinator of the Volunteer Program at Northern Hospital of Surry County, little did she know that she had just inherited a unique group of 85 adults – from a rich variety of backgrounds and with an abundant diversity of skills — who were willing to do whatever needed to be done to help patients.
Ranging in age from 23 to 90, the eager-beaver volunteers work throughout the hospital in any number of nonclinical tasks to help facilitate hospital operations and enhance patient/visitor comfort. On any given day, volunteers can be found delivering flowers and meal trays during off-hours, stocking shelves in the gift shop, transporting patients to their assigned rooms, and greeting guests who come to the hospital while helping them find their way.
“We are very appreciative of our volunteers’ time and generous efforts,” says Beasley, on behalf of the hospital administration. “The more non-clinical tasks they are able to perform, the more time our staff can devote to patient-care activities.”
Beasley doesn’t need to advertise for volunteers — interested individuals stop by her office frequently to get information about the program.
“More often than not, they seek me out for an application after they’ve had a positive encounter with a volunteer – either while they’ve been hospitalized themselves or while visiting a friend or relative in the hospital,” she said.
Would-be volunteers learn that the process of joining the volunteer team at Northern Hospital is similar to that for prospective employees.
“I’m looking for dependable, hard-working individuals with good interpersonal skills who can communicate effectively with both patients and staff,” explains Beasley, who conducts one-on-one interviews with each volunteer candidate. “I’m also looking for those who want to give back to their community – because that lets me know that their head and heart are in the right place.”
Once Beasley feels comfortable that the person will be a good fit for Northern Hospital’s team, each new volunteer must undergo a full background check, along with drug and health screenings. they must also attend an all-day general orientation to familiarize themselves with hospital policies and procedures, as well as federal, state and industry-wide regulations.
Expanding volunteer reach
Most volunteers spend a four-hour “shift” at the hospital – one or more times a week – to attend to various requests that are phoned-in to the volunteer room, a large, well-lit office that permits the volunteers to congregate and socialize in between errands. Still other volunteers spend the bulk of their time at regularly-assigned high-traffic locations – such as the gift shop, day surgery, and front desk.
After assuming leadership of the program, Beasley introduced a number of procedural improvements that resulted in enhancing hospital operations.
“Given the abundance of talent and experience among the volunteers, we began assigning individuals to specific departments where their special skills and interests could be maximized,” Beasley said.
Beasley also initiated regular monthly meetings in order to share information with the volunteers and to promote an even greater sense of community among them. “The meetings enabled the volunteers to stay abreast of any new hospital policies and procedures, and also gave them an opportunity to meet their colleagues, get or give tips and advice, and make new friends – all in an informal, friendly environment,” said Beasley.
History of volunteerism
Northern Hospital’s volunteer program began in the mid- to late-1950s, when a small group of elderly ladies was offered the opportunity to serve as greeters/receptionists at the front desk or as sales-associates in the gift shop. At that time, the women were known as “the pink ladies,” a reference to the softly-hued pink vests they wore over their street clothes to distinguish them as volunteer help.
Today, the “ladies” have welcomed men to their ranks — 26 percent of Northern’s adult volunteers are now male — and present-day volunteers don a bright, royal-blue vest to designate their volunteer status, along with an individualized name tag.
Junior volunteer program
Beasley also oversees a separate Junior Volunteer Program that gives young people exposure to the rich variety of jobs and careers available to them within the healthcare industry.
“The six-week program, run during the summer months, provides 50 high-school students direct, hands-on experience in a number of departments,” Beasley said. “At the end of the summer, the program’s ‘graduates’ earn a certificate, along with an opportunity to continue to volunteer — with some time-stipulations in place to help ensure that their volunteer efforts do not compromise their school studies.”
Part of the team
“Volunteers are a key part of our healthcare team at Northern Hospital,” said Beasley, who credits the adult volunteers with producing nearly 18,000 hours of service excellence last year. “In many instances, volunteers are the first point-of-contact for patients and visitors alike – so it’s important that their interactions with others are friendly, welcoming and caring,” she adds. “If someone is smiling, it sets the tone for the whole visit.”
As one measure of appreciation for its volunteers, the hospital hosts an annual volunteer banquet during April, which is designated as National Volunteer Month. This year’s gala, to be held April 19, will include presentations and remarks by key hospital administrators – as well as a farewell address from Tina Beasley, who announced recently that she will be vacating her role as coordinator of the volunteer program to accept a promotion within the Senior Administrative Suite of Northern Hospital.
Upon hearing that bittersweet news, Coley Jones, a 14-year veteran of the volunteer team, said simply, “I’ve been here a long while – so, on behalf of all the volunteers, I can say that we’ve been blessed by Tina’s presence – as well as the leaders who came before her.”