By Cat Valles, Anita Creamer and Liz Madison, Vitals contributors
Recent studies have indicated that volunteerism is down since the middle of the pandemic. Organizations across the country are looking for additional support and one sector in particular need is healthcare. They are sending out a special call-to-action given April is National Volunteer Month and National Volunteer Week is April 16-22, 2023.
The days of candy stripers have evolved into the modern era. Hospital volunteering includes a wide variety of options. Volunteers can help support emergency or surgery departments. They can work at the gift shop or at the information desk. Generally speaking, prospective volunteers complete an application form, pass a background check and obtain a health clearance. Applicants also interview individually with a membership coordinator to see where they may be a best fit.
“Volunteering is a great way to give back while gaining experience working in a hospital setting, where you’re able to provide valuable service to patients, staff and physicians,” said Tanya English, an assistant administrator at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, Calif., part of the Sutter Health system. Her career in healthcare can trace back to when she volunteered at her local hospital’s information desk while in high school. Part of that experience helped inspire her to oversee Eden’s volunteer program today.
“It’s rewarding to be a volunteer and know that your time is appreciated and valued,” added Christie Camarillo, who is a volunteer coordinator at Sutter’s Memorial Medical Center in Modesto. And when it comes to helping patients she said, “opportunities for acts of kindness are easy to find.”
Georgia Waid has a long history of volunteerism. The Davis, Calif. resident has devoted her time to many causes, from humanitarian and youth organizations to various service groups. She began volunteering in healthcare at her local community hospital, Sutter Davis Hospital, in 2015. She says she immediately felt welcomed. She appreciates how the volunteers are included in many of the hospital’s general activities and are kept updated on matters most pertinent to them.
“The teamwork at Sutter Davis Hospital is so positive and is part of the culture there,” she said.
While volunteering clearly helps others in need, it also benefits volunteers themselves—including supporting their mental and physical health.
“Numerous studies have shown the positive health effects associated with volunteerism, from lower blood pressure to living longer,” said Dr. Deven Merchant, chief medical executive for Sutter Davis Hospital. “The socialization and positive connections our volunteers build at the hospital can be big mood boosters, too, which can enhance overall mental wellness and lessen the chances of depression.”
For more information about volunteering in general, visit https://americorps.gov/.