Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Celebrating Volunteer Week

Today we celebrate Earth Day and Administrative Professionals Day, both very important reasons to pause and reflect/appreciate our resources and the people who support us on a daily basis.

Today also happens to be the midpoint of National Volunteer Week, which we celebrate in our CHRISTUS hospitals, facilities and programs across the U.S. For the last 10 years, the unselfish efforts of our amazing volunteer family has touched thousands of lives, bringing the energy, guidance, compassion and love that make CHRISTUS the unique health care organization that it is today. (You can see the volunteers at CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System in Texarkana, Texas pictured above.)

As I worked as a young physician and assumed more leadership roles, I was “raised” to believe that volunteers would be the last group to change in a hospital. However, I have learned that is absolutely not the case. Ten years ago when CHRISTUS Health was formed, volunteers led the necessary change in culture from their previous health system affiliations (Sisters of Charity Health System and Incarnate Word Health System) to CHRISTUS Health. They gladly traded the pink coats that identified them as volunteers for new purple ones that identified them as CHRISTUS volunteers. They also embraced a shift from an affiliation with a local hospital foundation (which many of our auxiliaries and volunteer groups donate to on a regular basis) to regional foundations which continued to support the hospital, but had a wider community-focused health care scope as well.

Our volunteers also embraced our transition to a focus on health care retail from our traditional hospital gift shop offerings. In the past, many of our facility gift shops were operated and merchandised by our volunteers, who then donated the profits from those stores to the hospital through the auxiliary. However, in 2007 we decided to revamp and expand our retail offerings in our facilities and online to a setup that we believed would help us better serve our patients and support our plans for sustainability moving forward. Our new CHRISTUS Healthy Living™ Marketplace stores allow our Associates, physicians, patients and community members to purchase items like wellness products, high-quality vitamins and mineral makeup, gourmet food and chocolates, clothing options, CHRISTUS logo merchandise and gifts in our facilities. Some of our Marketplaces even carry specialty products to be used by patients with certain diagnoses (like cancer), and many also offer gourmet coffee options, some of which are prepared by our dedicated volunteers!

This is obviously quite a difference from the way our volunteers oversaw many of these gift shops in the past. However, they have fully embraced our new vision, and we could not continue it without their support.

CHRISTUS has grown from 1,000 to 1,500 volunteers in our 10-year journey, and we are so blessed by each and every one! I am lucky to hear many stores about the volunteers in our CHRISTUS facilities around the country, and I wanted to share a few with you today. May they bless you as much as they have blessed me.

Daisy, who volunteers at CHRISTUS Schumpert St. Mary Place in Shreveport, La., spent 1,234 hours last year working on behalf of the hospital. She prices and stocks items in the gift shop, where she also tends to the flowers and delivers them to patients.

Marti Kaler has been volunteering for the past 55 years at CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi-Shoreline. She has spent many of those years working at the information desk, helping people find their loved ones who are patients in the facility, delivering flowers and directing phone calls. CHRISTUS Spohn Shoreline is definitely a more welcoming place because of Marti’s presence there.

Edna Brittain, who celebrated her 89th birthday this month, has been volunteering at CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital in Lake Charles, La. for almost 31 years. Today, Mrs. Edna creates beautiful silk arrangements for sale in the CHRISTUS Healthy Living Marketplace. In her earlier years, she was a nursing student at Charity Hospital in Shreveport, La. She married 6 months before graduating as a Registered Nurse, but soon after, her husband was called to active duty in World War II. With the birth of her children and responsibilities to her family, she did not continue pursuit of her nursing degree, but she has put her medical expertise and giving heart to work in many capacities in Lake Charles, and has had a tremendous impact on CHRISTUS St. Patrick.

Our volunteers also show great strength of character and service to others outside their roles in our facilities. One of those is Karen Binford, who volunteers two days a week at the information desk at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital – Medical Center. Karen regularly takes an acquaintance of hers named Adele to her doctor appointments. On one of these recent trips, Adele began to show signs of a stroke. Karen immediately took her to the Emergency Department at CHRSITUS Santa Rosa Medical Center, where she was given prompt attention. Karen wholeheartedly believes that she acted so quickly because she works in a hospital, but her response and compassion prove the commitment she has (as do all of our volunteers) to our core values and our mission of extending the healing ministry of Jesus Christ.

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