Volunteers Are Here to HELP
Meet Justin Hammond, a Grand River Hospital volunteer who has taken on numerous roles throughout the Hospital. Since he began volunteering in January 2018, Justin has volunteered in the Emergency Department, with the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP), as an Information and Portering volunteer, with Grand Venture (the Foundation’s online shop in support of the Hospital), and by giving hospital tours for new volunteers and employees.
“Volunteers fill an essential role at Grand River Hospital,” Justin explained. “None of the Hospital’s departments have time for [things like] spending extra time with patients or helping with wayfinding. Volunteers bridge this gap, making experiences at the hospital easier for patients and their families.”
While he first began volunteering at the Hospital to have new experiences and learn from different environments, Justin is now extremely connected to Grand River. In addition to his many volunteer roles, he even worked at Grand River Hospital in environmental services during the pandemic, delivering linens and performing housekeeping.
“Grand River Hospital felt like a home before that, but now it definitely is, even if I am only volunteering now,” Justin said of his time working at the Hospital.
His favourite role, however, is volunteering with HELP, which stands for the Hospital Elder Life Program. It is a specialized program providing specific care and support to patients from the Acute Care for the Elderly inpatient unit. To highlight the profound impact volunteers can have on patients and their experience at the hospital, Justin shared the following story about an experience he had as a HELP volunteer:
“The HELP program is a unique volunteer position because it works directly with patients to improve or shorten their hospital stay, although the emotional demands of volunteering with HELP can be high,” he recounted. “In 2019, I had been visiting a quiet and reserved elderly patient for a few days in a row while she waited for test results to return. She had a loving family and an incredibly responsive and mindful care team.
“I walked into her room on the third day I was with her, and she immediately told me that she had received a terminal cancer diagnosis earlier in the day. Only one of her physicians had time to deliver this news and stay with her briefly to answer questions; her family had not arrived yet. The patient didn’t have anyone to talk to about what the end of her life felt like for her. On one hand, her family would be immediately consumed with emotion when they arrived, and on the other hand, her care team could only talk about the medical side of the situation. I was able to listen for at least an hour about how she felt about her own death, how she felt about her legacy, and other topics.
“The patient voiced her appreciation for my time, understanding that while hospital staff did not have the resources to spend time with her, Grand River Hospital was still able to provide support on a day that she needed it ... I’m certain that many other volunteers have made similar differences in patients’ lives—that’s why I think the volunteer program is important.”
And even though volunteering can be emotionally demanding at times, it’s also extremely rewarding and worthwhile. It’s why volunteers like Justin continue to come back and are dedicated to supporting the Hospital.
“I really enjoy volunteering at Grand River Hospital,” Justin said. “Over the years, I’ve gained different perspectives on the functions of volunteers. As a volunteer, I know that having a more experienced volunteer to train [you] and lead the way is useful; Grand River Hospital can be an intimidating environment for new people. As a past employee, I know that having just one volunteer during your shift can make your day a lot easier and more enjoyable. As a patient, having a volunteer help you find your way or pass the time during a boring hospital stay can make the entire hospital experience much more pleasant.”
Volunteers truly make a difference for the patients, families and staff at Grand River Hospital. To learn more about how you can become a volunteer like Justin, visit GrandVolunteer.ca.