Volunteers have long been part of the operations at Cumberland Medical Center, helping greet patients, providing comfort to families and assisting staff in all departments.
But in March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic began, the hospital sent its volunteers home. Now, they’re coming back.
“They stayed home until the first part of June when we started bringing some back, slowly,” said Tina Treadway, volunteer coordinator for CMC. “We’re surviving, but our volunteers do play a big part and we’re missing them.”
Currently, about 44 volunteers from a 100-plus person auxiliary are back working in various departments of the hospital.
“They’re in labor and delivery, they’re greeters at the Cleveland St. entrance, they work in admitting, they escort patients back and forth to their destinations, they work in Lifeline, and they operate our gift shop Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.,” Treadway said.
The volunteers make up the CMC Volunteer Auxiliary, a group of about 115 volunteers who share their time and talents with the hospital. In 2019, they provided about 24,000 hours of service to the hospital.
“There’s several departments where we don’t have volunteers,” Treadway said.
The hospital’s same day surgery entrance is closed at this time. Waiting rooms do not have volunteer staff at this time, and the hospitality volunteers who check in on patients aren’t back on the floors yet.
“They can’t go room to room,” Treadway explained. “I have a cart and the floors know to call me if they need something, and I get it for them.”
The three therapy dogs who had visited with patients prior to the pandemic also haven’t returned to the hospital yet.
“They’re anxiously waiting to come back,” Treadway said, noting the dogs and owners had made some visits to the parking lot, often bearing gifts of masks or cookies to share.
While CMC limited access to their facilities, the volunteers continued to help out even from afar. Several volunteers crochet comfort quilts to be given to patients and their families along with a comfort cart that contains snacks and drinks, allowing families to stay with their loved one during comfort care.
“It makes it nicer for the families and lets them be with their patient,” Treadway said.
A recent volunteer used her sewing skills to help, fashioning pajamas that could accommodate special needs, like snap-on pants for patients in traction, or patching small tears in linens.
The volunteers also try to make the holidays special for the newborns in the nursery and their families. At Christmas, the volunteers created ornaments for Baby’s First Christmas that went home with every baby born in December. In February, the babies received red crocheted hats for Valentines Day.
“There’s volunteers at home making the bands to attach masks to, or masks for the nurses,” Treadway said. “They’re making baby blankets.”
The Volunteer Auxiliary also holds fundraisers and collects money to support the hospital. They’ve purchased special equipment for different departments over the years to support patient care, like a portable ultrasound machine, rolling thermometers, or wheelcharis.
This past year has led the group to innovate, with some virtual fundraisers and meetings to come up with new ideas.
Individuals interested in volunteering can fill out an application online at cmchealthcare.org/volunteers. Once reviewed, volunteers need a background check and health checks, such as a TB skin test and a flu shot.
“We don’t have a specific date we will open back up completely, but people can put in applications now,” Treadway said. “We will have openings. Something new comes up every day.”
Volunteers commit to one four-hour shift each week, though Treadway said many work more than that.
Treadway talks with each volunteer to discuss their skills and interests to try and find a good match. Volunteers bring all kinds of prior experience. Treadway has had volunteers with a background in healthcare, former bankers, even a former NASA scientist. But they all have one thing in common — a desire to help others.
“I tell them when you put on your uniform, you have to put on your smile,” she said. “They have to be friendly, outgoing, energetic and willing to help people as much as they can.”
Anyone with questions about volunteering can contact Treadway at 459-7133.