They are trained as the eyes for patients who can’t see, ears for the patients who have trouble hearing and the voices for patients who can’t speak for themselves. They watch over the confused and feed those who are unable to feed themselves.
Maimonides Medical Center is taking a multidisciplinary approach to train their volunteers for some specialized assignments. Nursing, metabolic support, geriatrics, volunteer and patient relations departments are all working together to prepare volunteers to work in the Companion, Let’s Walk and Talk, Feeders’ and Hospitality programs.
Volunteers wishing to be part of the Hospitality team complete a TeamSTEPPS training (Team Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety) , an evidence-based training curriculum designed to improve patient safety, optimize clinical outcomes and improve sharing of information.
Kelly Reilly, MSN, RN-BC,CHSE director of nursing research and evidence based practice runs TeamSTEPPS. “The volunteers we train support the work of the staff,” she said. “Patient-centered safety is a number one priority so training our volunteers involves more than a simple classroom session.”
The first of the specialized programs , the Companion Program, began in 2005. Paula Delfino, RN, ACNS-BC, MSN director of nursing education at Maimonides said, “A direct observation, one-on- one need for many of our high risk patients was identified, and that was the beginning of the Volunteer Companion Program.”
“Companion volunteers are highly motivated and because these volunteers usually use this program to get their feet wet, they’re most often planning to enter the health care field,” said Alla Zats, director of volunteer services at Maimonides Medical Center.
What the hospital didn’t know at the time was that investing in training their own hospital volunteers was yielding some welcome and unexpected results.
“At a certain point, we no longer needed to use any external staffing agencies for companions,” said Zats. “We had enough of our own.”
These training sessions are providing volunteers with a valuable skill set that many are using to forge careers in the health care industry. Many volunteers are either nursing students, prospective nursing students, students in medical assistant or physician assistant programs.
Some are new grads awaiting jobs and some are already licensed health care providers from other countries working on establishing themselves in this hospital they one day want to call home.
Viktoriya Fridman, MSN, ANP-BC coordinator of the NICHE/BOOST programs, is the NP at Maimonides who developed the Let’s Walk and Talk program to address the issues of function and cognitive impairment in the elderly while providing empathetic support and cognitive stimulation.
“Training for these volunteers includes introduction to cognitive function, assisting with ambulation and teaching how to perform passive range of motion exercises with their assigned patients,” said Fridman.
One may ask what the motivation is for the almost 1,800 volunteers that keep coming to serve at Maimonides.
Douglas Jablon special assistant to the president and senior vice president at MMC, said, “Our hospital is a large part of our community. When someone is sick, everyone wants to get involved.”