Enriching patient experience with volunteers

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Lifestyle adjustments can be difficult for patients and families as they adapt to being in hospital to receive care for chronic conditions. Over 90 per cent of Runnymede Healthcare Centre’s patients are over the age of 65, many of whom experience a range of cognitive impairments and physical disabilities that may lead to feelings of frustration, isolation and stress. With quality care and safety as a top priority, Runnymede is dedicated to creating the best possible experience for patients during their hospital stay.

Volunteers are a crucial component of the team at Runnymede because they provide assistance to hospital staff in non-clinical, support roles. Activation therapy is another area that adds to the patient experience by collaborating with hospital departments and the community to provide more than 50 programs and activities for patients. With programs and services like these, Runnymede continues to make remarkable advancements to enrich the lives of  patients.

“We couldn’t do it without our volunteers. They give generously of their time, talent and skills to support the interprofessional team in the delivery of key patient programs,” says Volunteer Services and Reception Manager May Cass. “In return, volunteers are given the opportunity to develop new skills and relationships while contributing to their community.”

After completing training and orientation, volunteers are seen throughout the hospital – wearing blue vests with a volunteer ID badge – offering assistance to a variety of departments and areas, from administration to infection control. While volunteers do not replace the roles of professional staff, their presence is a valuable asset as they interact and build relationships with patients.

Offering a unique experience fosters patient satisfaction and volunteers do this through a number of programs including: friendly visiting, activation therapy, mealtime assistance and accompanying patient out-trips to Blue Jays games, shopping malls and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Pet visits are also offered through volunteer services, as interaction with animals is believed to have a positive effect on patients. An exciting new volunteer program at the hospital utilizes iPads to offer patients e-books and news online.

Runnymede’s activation therapists design and implement therapeutic programs to meet the diverse social, emotional, physical, intellectual, spiritual and creative needs of each patient, while catering to a wide variety of hobbies and interests. The staff set unique goals for each patient and implement care plans that are tailored to each patient’s current level of abilities.

Collaboration with other clinical areas at the hospital provides unique opportunities for additional programming e.g., collaboration with speech language pathology to provide weekly music therapy sessions. Promoting the use of language through movement and musical activities, this innovative program is aimed at patients with communication impairments, who require language stimulation, or who are at risk of social isolation and would benefit from a group setting.

Dorothy is a caregiver whose husband has been a Runnymede patient for over two years. When he first arrived at the hospital, it took some time to become accustomed to new people and a change in environment. After taking part in Runnymede’s activation therapy programs, the staff and his family have noticed a remarkable change in his demeanor.

“He has opened up completely,” Dorothy says. “He has adapted well to being at the hospital and is friendly with all of the staff. I appreciate what Runnymede is doing for their patients and I feel blessed that we have come to this hospital.”

Runnymede’s mandate is to continue to raise the standard of high quality care as the hospital continues to grow and expand. To guide the hospital in this process and assess their current performance, they conduct an annual patient satisfaction survey, which also surveys each patient’s most frequent visitor and has highlighted the great work of the hospital to date.

In 2013 patient satisfaction with the overall quality of care was an outstanding 83 per cent. In addition, the patients’ most frequent visitors rated the overall quality of care as 96 per cent. These results confirm Runnymede’s commitment to enhancing the patient experience and the overall quality of care. The hospital continues to make adjustments so that patients are able to live exceptional lives while having an experience that can brighten their day.