More than 500 weekly volunteers help make Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center an easier experience for its patients. And because sickness waits for no one, these volunteers span seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Volunteers read stories to the kids, go from clinic to clinic to pass out toys, supervise art activities, and run games of Bingo. Other volunteers work in the College Hill greenhouse to do basic maintenance so that children can have the experience of planting something of their own. Some volunteers even work in the hospital’s sewing room to create a more comfortable experience with quilts, clothing, toys and even dolls customized to look like the individual patients.
But these volunteers aren’t just taken on a whim.
The volunteer program at Children’s Hospital maintains strict standards to keep patients safe, comfortable and healthy. And those standards go beyond an application, interview, background check and three-hour orientation (though those are all part of the standards too).
"Because we are a business of children, that’s when these viruses and diseases are most prevalent, and we want to make sure that we protect the child that’s the patient and also the volunteers and the families and the staff," says Colleen Phillips, clinical director of the volunteer services at Children’s Hospital.
All volunteers must be current on their vaccinations, and once they begin volunteering, they must keep their health in check or not come to volunteer. "People need to be healthy when they come to volunteer. Even though you can still go to church, you can still go to classes with a little trickle of a sore throat, because we have a very vulnerable population, we cannot have people coming to volunteer if they have the beginnings of symptoms," Phillips says.
The program even takes it to the extreme of allergies. A runny nose and itchy eyes might be linked to seasonal allergies, but the hospital doesn’t want patients and their families to get the wrong impression, so they ask anyone with allergy symptoms to stay home.
In addition to the medical requirements to keep the kids safe from additional health problems, Children’s Hospital strives to give the most to their patients through consistent and reliable volunteers. To make that happen, every adult volunteer must commit to a weekly two-hour time slot that they agree to fill for 100 hours of service, and college and high school students must commit to 50 hours of service.
This commitment allows each volunteer to contribute more and more as they gain experience. "Staff come to welcome and expect that volunteer, and they might even plan special programs, knowing they’re going to have the support that day and that time," Phillips says.
For more information about the volunteer program at Children’s Hospital, head to CincinnatiChildrens.org/Volunteer.
Photo courtesy of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center