Why One Volunteer Was Inspired to Give Back at Grand River Hospital
Nancy Murray has been a volunteer at Grand River Hospital for about six years now, but her passion for health care began much earlier on in her life. Growing up, she was inspired by a family friend she looked up to who worked as a nurse.In particular, Nancy was captivated by her unique brooch-style watch, which was pinned upside down on her nursing uniform so she could easily look down and read it while helping patients.
“As a child, I remember her watch and her white uniform and her hat, and she’d say, ‘Well I need that watch [so] I can tell if people’s hearts [are] working okay.’ And that’s what inspired me. I wanted to be a nurse,” Nancy recalled. “She was thrilled when she found out I was doing the volunteering at the hospital.”
It was a career Nancy hoped she might be able to pursue herself one day, and although she ultimately wasn’t able to make nursing her profession, her love for nursing and health care never left her — it’s one of the reasons she decided to volunteer at Grand River Hospital.
Nancy’s favourite place to volunteer is the hospital’s emergency department, where she helps patients and their loved ones during what is often a very scary and stressful time for them. She likes that she gets to work with people directly, helping put them at ease and offering them comfort.
“You just feel that you’ve actually done something worthwhile for the day,” she said, adding that, “you’ve hopefully made a difference in someone’s life.”
An experience that was particularly memorable was the time she comforted a man whose wife was being airlifted to another hospital for critical care.
“I stood outside with her husband and watched the helicopter go away. And he just held onto my hand and just kept squeezing my hand,” Nancy remembered. “And that stays with you.”
“I could feel that husband’s pain because I’ve lost my husband,” she added later. “We both looked up and watched that helicopter go, and he obviously didn’t know if he’d ever see her alive again … I just felt good that I was able to be some sort of comfort to him.”
In addition to helping patients and visitors, volunteers are also a huge help to hospital staff. They can enhance patient experience by taking care of the little things that are time consuming for staff but make a big difference for patients — simple, non-clinical tasks like getting them a blanket or a glass of water, helping them make a phone call, showing them how to get to the right waiting room or having a conversation with them until their loved ones arrive can all go a long way to help both the patients and the staff. And Nancy is always happy to help! She has nothing but wonderful things to say about the all of the hospital staff she works alongside as a volunteer.
“We’re not ‘just a volunteer,’” she explained. “[The staff] talk to us. They treat us with respect and thank us. They’re incredible!”
Nancy's time at Grand River has not only made a huge difference for those at the hospital but for herself as well. She has made some great friends through the volunteer program, and she gets to live out her childhood dream of helping patients.
“I just absolutely love it. I call it my happy place,” Nancy said. “I’m giving back to the community, … giving back to people who helped me, and you just come out feeling fulfilled that you’ve actually done something. If you’re able to put a smile on someone’s face or help them — that’s what it’s all about.”