An extra layer of caring
With a smile, a helping hand and a listening ear, frontline volunteers help extend exceptional care to patients and families
A special group of frontline volunteers at Via Christi’s Wichita hospitals make it their job to see that patients — and their families — receive nothing less than “exceptional care.”
They provide nonmedical care and comfort while freeing nurses to concentrate more fully on the medical needs of patients, says Cyndi Martin, director of Volunteer Services.
Patient Satisfaction Volunteers
In a growing number of units at Via Christi’s Wichita hospitals, volunteers ask patients to honestly share what they liked — or didn’t like — about their stay.
“The response has been wonderful,” says volunteer Amy Windholz, who goes room to room informally surveying patients. “Ninety percent or more say yes, the care during their stay has been exceptional. I can‘t tell you how many times they add that their nurses are fantastic.”
On rare occasions when patients or families report a less positive experience, Amy often is able to intervene with a simple solution, as in the case of an elderly patient who waited several hours for a meal tray.
“She didn’t understand that we have room service meals, and she could simply phone in her order for whatever she wanted to eat, whenever she wanted it,” says Amy. “When she realized that, she was just thrilled!”
Feedback from her visits is shared with hospital staff to avoid such misunderstandings in the future.
Amy turned to volunteer work just a year ago, when the youngest of her six children started seventh grade. She loves it, she says.
“Whether our conversation is five minutes or 35 minutes, it’s an opportunity to make patients feel they’ve been heard,” she says. “We leave them knowing someone cares about them today.”
Emergency Room Volunteers
In the hospitals’ ERs, volunteers circulate through the waiting room and treatment rooms, reassuring nervous patients and family members that a doctor will see them shortly, bringing a blanket if they’re cold or a magazine or puzzle book to help pass the time, or just listening to their concerns.
Wichita State University bioengineering and biochemistry student Pie Pichetsurnthorn hopes to become a doctor. She volunteers Sunday afternoons in the ER at the hospital on St. Francis.
“My favorite part is talking to patients and making them more comfortable,” says the 21-year-old Pie, who has volunteered around the hospital since she was 14.
Once, worried parents brought in their child with a non-critical concern. The ER was extremely busy, so the wait was longer than usual, and the parents repeatedly interrupted ER staff to ask when a doctor would see their child.
“I assured them that they hadn’t been forgotten and would be seen as soon as the more seriously ill patients had been attended to,” Pie says. “Then I brought their child a coloring book and crayons to keep him occupied. Just being there and listening to their concerns really calmed them down — and allowed the nurses time to do their jobs without interruptions.
“Our ER nurses and doctors are an amazing team, and they really appreciate everything we do for them and for patients.”
Patient Unit Volunteers
In many units at the hospitals on Harry and St. Francis, volunteers pick up patient meal trays, pass out fresh ice water, adjust patients’ pillows or just visit with them when invited.
Retired nurse Rosie Wait, 88, graduated from St. Joseph School of Nursing in Wichita in the 1940s and for a time worked at the hospital on Harry. Retired just last year, the always-on-the-go Rosie found she missed her patients. Now she volunteers every Thursday on 6E, a general medical unit.
“This is right down my alley, getting to be with patients again,” she says. She stops in every room to ask if patients or their visitors need anything. “Whatever I do, no matter how small, I always get a, ‘Thank you, Rosie’,” she says. “It’s rewarding to know I’ve helped someone. Being sympathetic toward other people’s needs is just something inside of me.”