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April 23, 2013 > Volunteers Play a Key Role at Washington Hospital

Volunteers Play a Key Role at Washington Hospital

National Healthcare Volunteer Week Recognizes Service

You may not realize it, but volunteers play a key role in supporting the staff at Washington Hospital. They can be found in nearly every corner of the hospital helping to ensure that patients' needs are met, comforting loved ones, greeting visitors, cuddling babies, and much more.

Washington Hospital volunteers are being recognized for their commitment and dedication this week during National Healthcare Volunteer Week. About 200 hospital volunteers are expected to attend a celebration luncheon on Friday at the Marriott in Fremont.

"Volunteers help out in so many ways," said Denise Stones, assistant director of Volunteer Services at Washington Hospital. "They are there for the patients and their families, whether it's providing comfort and support or helping them navigate hospital services. They are flexible and willing to assist wherever they are needed. We couldn't do it without them."

Washington Hospital has more than 600 volunteers, including adults as well as high school and college students, who give their time to help the hospital provide the best care possible. Washington Hospital Service League members donated more than 45,000 hours of service alone last year.

In addition to Service League volunteers, who perform a wide range of tasks, there are a number of other volunteer positions, including the following:
* Chaplains, who represent several denominations and are on call 24 hours a day, spend their volunteer time offering spiritual comfort to patients, families, friends, and staff.
* Washington Hospital Employee Association Board members are hospital employees who organize special events for fellow employees and their families. They also offer scholarships to the children of employees, and have donated money to hospital departments for items ranging from wheelchairs to teddy bears.
* Foundation volunteers raise funds to support the healthcare system. Gifts to the foundation have totaled more than $6 million toward healthcare services and equipment.
* Mended Hearts volunteers are specially trained to talk with heart disease patients who are undergoing heart surgery or receiving angioplasty, as well as their families, friends, and caregivers.

"It's really a privilege to be a volunteer," said Jeannie Yee, president of the Service League. "We share moments with the patients and their loved ones and our goal is to make them good moments. We try to improve the overall experience for patients and their families."

Yee has been volunteering at Washington Hospital for nearly 10 years. She got involved after attending an information session with her then 15-year-old daughter who was interested in volunteering.

"I was just going to drop her off and then I ended up sitting through the entire session," Yee said. "I couldn't wait to get started."

She wanted to be a baby cuddler, but there weren't any openings in the program at the time. So she started taking photos of newborns and has been doing it every Thursday for the past 10 years. A few years after she started, there was an opening in the baby cuddling program, and now she does that every Tuesday as well.

"I get my baby fix," said Yee, whose two children are now adults. "Both of my kids were born at Washington Hospital, so that makes it special."

Something for Everybody

Yee said there is literally something for everybody when it comes to volunteering at Washington Hospital because there is such a wide range of volunteer positions available.

"Volunteers receive specialized training depending on what they are going to do," she added. "They are also required to shadow someone before they work on their own. Volunteers play an important role in patient care, so it's critical that they receive proper training."

According to Yee, there are more than 30 different areas of the hospital where volunteers provide support. For example, volunteers staff the lobby desk at the main hospital and at Washington West, where they greet patients and visitors when they arrive. They also help to discharge patients when they leave, wheeling them out to the curb where they can be picked up by friends or family.

Volunteers provide emotional support to patients and their loved ones in the emergency room and those in the critical care unit. They serve as surgery liaisons, keeping patients' family and friends updated during a surgical procedure. They make deliveries throughout the hospital and help to feed patients. They cuddle special care babies and take photos of newborns. They coach joint replacement patients following surgery. Volunteers also staff the gift shop and library. And the list goes on.

In addition to their regular assignments, volunteers also support a number of special projects like lectures, seminars, classes, and health screenings as well as community events like Think Pink.

Every year the Service League also raises money to help fund equipment and other special projects. Last year the Service League donated $55,000 to upgrade the security system at Washington Hospital. The group also provided $10,000 to support the successful Measure Z campaign, a bond measure passed last November that will help Washington Hospital expand its emergency services and trauma care.

"We do what we can to support the hospital," Yee said. "We are very much appreciated by the hospital for our contributions, so it feels good. We need more adults who are willing to share their time and talent. I know there are a lot of baby boomers out there who are looking for ways to get involved. I hope they consider volunteering at Washington Hospital. It's been a great experience for me."

Anyone interested in volunteering at Washington Hospital must be at least 16 years old and attend an information session, held each month. For more information about volunteer opportunities and dates and times for upcoming information sessions, visit or call (510) 791-3465.

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