By DRU MURRAY
Nothing can cheer hospital patients or their friends and family like the caring actions, smiles, and kind words of dedicated volunteers. And Medical Center of Lewisville (MCL) provides a program that enables volunteers to deliver that extra supportive service that makes hospital stays more palatable.
A visit with the Wednesday contingent of volunteers revealed their motivations for their dedication to serve the patients. Marijohn McKenzie’s decision to volunteer is, “It’s part of my faith to be of service to others. I’m a people person.” McKenzie’s dedication is phenomenal—she is the epitome of MCL volunteers, serving for the 39 years since the hospital opened. McKenzie stated, “I’m a native of Lewisville. I was born here. When the hospital opened, it was a huge source of community pride.” McKenzie, who currently helps at the front desk from 7:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Wednesdays, has logged in over 8,000 hours as a volunteer.
Flower Mound resident Sharon Stum, 67, a six–year volunteer, stands ready to help two days per week from 9:00 a.m.—3:00 p.m. Stum revealed that she had “retired after 33 years as a secretary at the airport. I made it six months. I wanted to be around people.” And her answer to the question “What do you get it out of it?” was “I just enjoy helping people.”
Carole Winsor, 62, of Lantana echoed Stum’s sentiment: “It’s gratifying to know that you can make a difference but also foster friendship.” Stum said her reasons for volunteering were that she “just needed to not only occupy my time, but to also be with people. I started out wanting to be in the nursery rocking babies but unfortunately they don’t have that program here.” Winsor began her volunteering 12 years ago.
Donald Wolan, 69, is a regular volunteer who serves 7.5 hours each Wednesday. He said, “I retired nine years ago from Citigroup and decided to get involved in the community.” Wolan said he has received more from his volunteering than he has given: “I enjoy assisting people, giving back to the community.”
The group’s youngest member is Anusha Rajbhandari, 16, a part-timer who is Flower Mound High School student. Rajbhandari said she became a volunteer because as a National Honor Society member she is required to log in a total of 20 hours of community service this summer. “I’m also thinking about joining the medical community, probably in pediatrics,” she noted.
McKenzie verified the already-evident camaraderie amongst the volunteers by saying, “We love each other.” Apparently that love extends to their volunteer coordinator as the volunteers issued a consensus statement of “We love working with Gina.” The Gina they were referring to is Gina Harrison, MCL’s volunteer coordinator since June 2015. Harrison is a longtime MCL employee who began working at the hospital 18 years ago after she earned her associate’s degree in nursing.
“I met my husband who is a nurse here. And I have served as an employee health nurse here for the last eight years,” Harrison said. With appreciative laughs, several volunteers declared that Harrison “gives good shots.” With a responding smile, Harrison revealed that she does give employees flu shots and since MCL has 850 employees, she is kept busy doing that throughout the year. Harrison, who earned a Bachelor’s of Nursing or BSN and is a Registered Nurse (RN), will acquire her Master’s in Nursing (MSN) in October.
Before volunteers are assigned duties, they must attend a four-hour orientation; pass hospital-provided health screenings, including ones for drug and tuberculosis (TB); submit to a background check; and complete training for a specific placement area, plus meet any other necessary training or regulatory guidelines.
After completing training, volunteers serve as valued members of the hospital team by answering questions posed at staff information and registration desks; delivering flowers and mail to patients; performing clerical work, including answering phones; and backing up nurses through the administering of indirect patient care in the Emergency, Day Surgery, and other departments. Obviously, volunteers are in the thick of the action.
The Adult Volunteer Program is for those aged 18 and older. Adult volunteers at Medical Center of Lewisville must be willing to serve a four-hour shift a minimum of one day each week for three weeks of every month and must commit to this schedule for one year. Currently there are 53 adult volunteers.
The Summer Volunteer Program operates from June 13–Aug. 12 and is for ages 16–18.
Applicants for the Summer Volunteer Program must submit their applications by March 31. According to Harrison, 60 applicants—the most ever—applied for 32 slots in 2016’s summer program. “Applicants must fill out an application form and be interviewed like they are applying for a real job,” said Harrison.
Besides gleaning the satisfaction of knowing that they are helping members of the community, MCL volunteers are treated as though they are employees. McKenzie said, “The hospital is very generous to us.” Harrison added, “Whenever hospital employees get a gift, volunteers receive the same gift.”
The hours volunteers contribute are closely tracked. “Every month, a Thursday volunteer counts up the volunteer hours and sends it to the Denton County R.S.V.P. or Retired Seniors Volunteer Program,” said Harrison. She added, “Another reason a tallying of volunteers’ hours is important is because Healthy People, a federal program that supports public health, considers volunteering a sign of a healthy community.” The tracked hours are also used to award hourly and yearly pins to the volunteers, who proudly display them on their uniforms. Volunteers receive pins for every 250 hours they serve and for five-year increments.
Volunteers’ efforts are also recognized in a yearly Annual Recognition Dinner at which the hospital’s CEO and leaders serve volunteers takes place in April during Annual Volunteer Week. Said Harrison, “Last year, our theme was ‘Masked Elegance,’ a tribute to the volunteers masking their service with a smile. We haven’t chosen a theme yet for next spring’s recognition dinner.”
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer at Medical Center of Lewisville can find more information and an application online at ltjne.ws/mclvol or pick up a copy at the hospital’s front desk.