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National Volunteer Week April 23-29

National Volunteer Week April 23-29

Photo: Volunteer Greg Cole offering treats from the Comfort Cart to patients at Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

Escort desk volunteer Stephen Coady wants to make sure that all who pass through the doors of Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H) feel comfortable and trust the community of care they are entering.

A personal indebtedness inspires Coady. Ten years ago, he was rushed to D-H with two brain aneurysms, and following 16 hours of surgery and five weeks in intensive care, was deemed “a walking miracle” by his doctors. “I’m so grateful that I’m alive and walking and breathing,” Coady says. “I’m volunteering to give back because this hospital saved my life.”

In honor of National Volunteer Week

This is also a time to celebrate our collective “why”—the great work we do together each day—April 23-29—,D-H recognizes and celebrates our volunteers, throughout all its locations, for the gift of their time and commitment to D-H’s mission to provide not only the best care but the best patient experience possible. Over 500 volunteers serve in over 30 volunteer programs at four D-H locations (Lebanon, Nashua, Manchester and Concord), contributing nearly 60,000 hours each year.

Coady’s experience reflects that of many of D-H’s volunteers. According to Beth O’Connor, director of Volunteer Services, many of the volunteers have been patients here. And their experience volunteering has only deepened their sense of appreciation. “More than 87 percent of volunteers reported having greater confidence in D-H’s quality of care than they had before they began volunteering,” O’Connor says.

Volunteers say they’re feeling the appreciation in return. In 2016, 100 percent of volunteers surveyed felt that the D-H staff they worked with treated them as a valued member of their team. The same 100 percent felt confident they had made a positive difference in the lives of patients, visitors and staff through their work.

One way that positive difference is evident is in the annual grants that D-H Volunteers provide to the hospital, through proceeds from The Gift Shop at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, volunteer-founded, non-profit shop that has operated since 1965. Last year, over $200,000 of D-H Volunteer grants funded a wide range of resources, including training for the DHART team, nursing scholarships, tobacco cessation materials, diapers for the Women’s Health Resource Center and comfort items for palliative care patients, to name a few.

Volunteers’ far-reaching impact on the patient experience isn’t always measurable, but it’s no less certain. O’Connor has observed that “their presence has a grounding, soothing influence on patients, largely because volunteers can empathize with the patient’s situation, having been on that side of it before.” And volunteers, just by being there, represent a connection to the world outside the hospital, and in their own way bring that light into what can be a difficult time and space for many patients.