Volunteers enhance the health and well-being of patients

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From high school and university students to young professionals and recent retirees, volunteers at Runnymede Healthcare Centre play an integral role in enhancing the patient experience at the hospital.

Assisting both clinical and non-clinical teams with the daily delivery of programs and services, the hospital’s volunteers ensure each patient’s day is smoother, happier and more productive.

“So much of what we do at Runnymede would simply not be possible without the helping hands and open hearts of our volunteers,” says President and Chief Executive Officer, Connie Dejak. “Last year, we had more than 100 extraordinarily giving people donate nearly 7,700 hours of indispensable service to our hospital. Given our ongoing growth and expansion, and our continued focus on meeting the diverse needs of the community, volunteers are more essential than ever to the delivery of high-quality patient care at our hospital.”

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Through contributions both large and small, volunteers support patients through every step of their hospital journey, from the bedside to discharge. Adjusting to life in hospital can be difficult for some patients and may lead to feelings of anxiety, frustration and isolation. According to the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network, approximately 30 to 50 per cent of seniors experience a decline in their health during a hospital stay, due in part to lack of activity and social interaction. This can lead to longer hospital stays and potentially reduce an older patient’s chance of regaining his/her independence or returning home. Since more than 90 per cent of Runnymede’s patients are over the age of 65 and experience longer hospital stays, it is imperative that they regularly engage in social activities in order to prevent mental and physical decline.

In addition to portering patients to individual therapy sessions or accompanying them on out-trips to museums and shopping malls, volunteers assist with the facilitation of activation therapy programs, including arts and crafts sessions and active games like bowling and gardening. These programs cater to a range of patient hobbies and interests, encourage social interaction and participation, and support all aspects of health and well-being.

Further, volunteers interact with patients through friendly visiting, stopping by their rooms on a regular basis to engage in conversation, games or reading. A number of volunteers also bring their pets along as interaction with animals is said to have a positive effect on patients, elevating spirits and reducing stress. As of Q4 2013/14, 8.7 per cent of Runnymede’s patients experienced symptoms of delirium and 9.2 per cent suffered from a worsened mood due to depression. Social interaction, like friendly visits can be effective in the ongoing management of these mental health issues and lead to improved patient outcomes and a better quality of life. The hospital’s 2013 Patient Satisfaction Survey results are a testament to this with 90 per cent of patients stating that the therapy they receive meets their individual needs. The hard work, dedication and passion of Runnymede’s volunteers is evident in these results.

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“Our volunteers give generously of their time and talents every day,” says Sharleen Ahmed, Chief Planning and Communications Officer. “Whether accompanying a patient to a therapy group or offering words of comfort, volunteers make meaningful contributions that enhance the patient experience at Runnymede. In return, they develop essential skills like interpersonal communication, time management and problem-solving, while gaining confidence in their abilities and giving back to the local community.”