Although the staff at Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital are important, it is the volunteers who turn the hospital from a medical facility into a community.
At every entrance a volunteer is ready to greet clients and guide them whether it is by providing instructions from one part of the building to another or providing comfort through anxiety. Volunteer Coordinator Patricia Wagoner explained the various opportunities available for volunteers throughout the hospital.
“The gift shop is staffed entirely by volunteers. We have volunteers at the front Information Desk, Outpatient Surgery, the Emergency Department, Imaging,” listed Wagoner. “Patient Care volunteers ask the patients questions like if there’s anything they can do for them. Every week the Arlington Baptist Church goes through with a refreshment wagon to the patient waiting area.”
The volunteers so permeate the hospital experience that it’s difficult to not encounter one whatever the reason for visiting which leads many people to become volunteers. Larry Carter has been serving at Hugh Chatham since 2002 and calls on his own personal experience with surgery when helping patients and families waiting for procedures.
“The other day I had someone who was waiting for cataract surgery. I told them I had had both of my eyes done,” related Carter, whose wife is also a volunteer. “When they were done they told me it had helped them to know I had been through it.”
“Molly and Larry are the true meaning of giving back,” stated Wagoner.
Molly retired from working at the hospital eight years ago and immediately became a volunteer. “It’s my way of staying involved with the hospital,” explained Molly. “I’d like to do more than what I do.”
Personal experience helps many of the volunteers. Steva Bledsoe has helped with the Emergency Department for the seven years it has been open. “When my husband became superintendent [of Elkin City Schools], I felt it was important to get involved with this community,” explained Bledsoe. As a former teacher Bledsoe is able to apply her experience to aiding patients and families as they enter the Emergency Department.
“What is the one thing parents have in common with people at the Emergency Department?” asked Bledsoe. “Anxiety. It’s my job to help people feel more comfortable about being here. To know that they will be seen even if they don’t have insurance, and that they will be cared for promptly. If they are here, you know they are not at their best.”
Bledsoe also described the detailed training received by all volunteers. “We are trained to look for signs of stroke or difficulties resulting from diabetes,” she explained before demonstrating her skills with an incoming patient keeping her voice calm and even, continuing to smile and empathize, and keeping patients the center of her attention.
“It’s much easier when you have a smiling face that you can talk to,” asserted Wagoner as she proudly observed Bledsoe. “My most important job is matching a volunteer’s skills to the position,” stated Wagoner, explaining that some people want to volunteer but may not have the ability to handle the physical or emotional demands.
“Anyone can help,” insisted Wagoner, pointing out that not every volunteer needs to interact with patients. Volunteers provide baked goods during the Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival in October and the Prayer Shawls can provide as much comfort as a person sometimes. Even those knitters without means to purchase yarn can still give of their time and skill by using materials available through the Hospital Auxiliary.
Through the volunteer projects, small stuffed bears to comfort the youngest patients have been purchased as well as some of the mammography equipment in the Imaging department. Individuals who have made a donation to the Lovelight memorial tree at Christmas have helped contribute to these purchases as well as those who have shopped at the Hospital Gift Shop.
“I think we all have a need to be needed,” professed Wagoner, “and I think this fulfills that.”
For more information about becoming a volunteer at Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital or joining the Hospital Auxiliary, call Wagoner at 336-527-7208.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.