Seniors & Aging

Volunteers valued at PeaceHealth St. Joseph

Marci Scott, director of the volunteer program at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, talks with Monta Wagar, a volunteer at the main lobby information desk, March 17, 2016, at the hospital.
Marci Scott, director of the volunteer program at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, talks with Monta Wagar, a volunteer at the main lobby information desk, March 17, 2016, at the hospital. For The Bellingham Herald

The oldest volunteer at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center helps in the Childbirth Center, stocking supplies and doing other tasks. She’s 92.

When she doesn’t come in during her usual shift, concerned staff members call Marci Scott, the director of volunteer and auxiliary services.

“Volunteers are truly valued,” says Scott, who has run the volunteer program the past 16 years. “A lot of it is making sure I touch base with volunteers. To me, it’s the best job in the world.”

The hospital has about 400 people who regularly volunteer their time and expertise. About 125 are students from Western Washington University, gaining experience in their chosen fields.

Volunteers often say, ‘I get so much more than I give.’

Marci Scott, director, volunteer services

The other 275 are mainly retirees or part-time workers. They help with a wide range of activities, but don’t do direct patient medical care.

Some volunteers arrive at 5 in the morning to support people arriving for operations. Their duties include helping people navigate the hospital’s corridors, answering question, and bringing blankets for family members waiting for their loved ones to come out of surgery.

Scott says those volunteers provide “a kind, helpful soul in a storm.”

Some volunteers staff the information desk. Others include musicians who play the harp at patients’ bedsides and in the emergency department, helping to calm staff as well as those who are ill. Others work behind the scenes, sterilizing equipment, running errands, and entering data, among other tasks.

Some volunteers hold unusual positions not usually associated with hospitals. For example, a telecommunications volunteer fixes broken phones and speakers, and a retired project manager scans blueprints, a major undertaking that wouldn’t be completed without his help, Scott says.

Applicants undergo a background check and health screen, attend a four-hour class, and shadow current volunteers to learn their duties.

It’s all a matter of matching tasks with people’s skills and interests.

“We’re the eHarmony of the volunteer world,” Scott says.

‘Patient ambassadors’ needed

To apply for a volunteer position, people fill out a form on PeaceHealth’s website and call to schedule an interview with Scott. Other requirements include a background check, health screening, and attendance at a four-hour orientation class, offered monthly.

After the class, applicants accompany a current volunteer for five, four-hour shifts, until they are ready to tackle duties on their own. Volunteers commit to at least one shift per week for at least six months.

Though most volunteer positions are filled, openings come up all the time. People sometimes have to wait after they apply.

Currently there are openings available for “patient ambassadors.” Those are former patients who volunteer to visit with current patients, often ones who don’t have many friends or family in the area.

Whether volunteers are new or veterans, Scott considers them all crucial team members who provide vital help, and clearly enjoy doing so.

“Volunteers often say, ‘I get so much more than I give,’” she says.

To volunteer

Contact Marci Scott at 360-788-6324 or mscott@peacehealth.com. For details and forms online, go to peacehealth.org and search for “volunteer.”

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