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Celebrating our volunteers across VCH


Photo: Mardi Read, a volunteer at Richmond Hospital

From April 18 to 24, we celebrate National Volunteer Week – a time when we acknowledge and thank our volunteers for their time and efforts during the past year. Throughout the Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) region, our volunteers contribute countless hours to improving the health-care experience for our patients, residents, clients, their families and staff.

We're pleased to share a stories from just a few of the many dedicated volunteers we are grateful to work alongside.

Richmond volunteer: Mardi Read

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteers have continued to offer their time and help make a difference in the lives of many across the organization.

This past year in Richmond, more than 200 volunteers contributed 20,200 hours across acute, long term care and community sites, supporting more than 40 different program areas, in addition to vaccination clinics and various COVID-19 response projects. From helping to make over 16,600 calls to medical imaging patients to remind them of their appointments to contributing 13,099 hours to the Richmond Auxiliary to help raise funds to support the purchase of medical equipment, the contributions of the Richmond volunteers this past year have gone above and beyond.

One of these dedicated volunteers is Mardi Read — who has been volunteering in Richmond for the past eight years.

"I wanted to volunteer at Richmond Hospital to give back in a small way for the excellent care received by myself and family," says Mardi. "I have loved helping patients find their appointments and enjoy talking to the different people who visit the hospital."

Over the past year, Mardi shifted from her usual patient navigator role at Richmond Hospital to supporting Medical Imaging during the pandemic to help call patients to remind them of their upcoming appointments.

"COVID-19 has impacted everyone. Sometimes I call people who are feeling isolated and have the opportunity to lend a compassionate ear and keep the conversation positive."

Our volunteers not only make a difference to our patients but to staff as well. Karen Barclay, Richmond Director of Mental Health and Substance Use, explains why our hospital and community are so fortunate to have the gift of our volunteers' time.

"Every day, as I walk through the hospital I see and hear examples of the support you provide for our system and the people who rely on us for health care," she says. "Your smiles and support make each day brighter. The spirit of volunteering is a beautiful part of our Canadian cultural identity and we couldn't do it without you."

Thank you, Mardi!

Vancouver Community volunteer: Justin Cruz

From supporting COVID-19 rapid response to distributing harm reductions supplies at a community

health centre and even grocery shopping for vulnerable seniors, Justin Cruz has done it all as a volunteer in Vancouver Community.

"I always knew I wanted to work in health care," says Justin. "And I recognize the important role volunteers play in the upkeep of programs and services in order to provide the best care for clients and patients."

Justin has been volunteering with a variety of Vancouver Coastal Health programs since 2019, and has really stepped up for Vancouver Community during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. After the pandemic was declared, Justin supported the Shop by Phone program, which delivers groceries and personal items to people who are unable to shop on their own, such as seniors and vulnerable populations.

"It felt important to help fill these roles during the pandemic, especially since I am a younger person with less health risks," he says.

Justin's favorite part of his volunteer work is building relationships and making a positive impact on the community and clients he supports. "I feel a sense of happiness that I am able to play a central role in caring for people, and I hope my support helps not only in the moment, but has a lasting impact."

Justin recently graduated from UBC's Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science (BMLSc) Program and is currently in his first year of pharmacy school at UBC.

Thank you, Justin!

COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic Volunteer: Barbara Henning (PHSA)

Volunteers from our partner Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) play a key role in the coordination of Vancouver Coastal Health's (VCH) COVID-19 vaccination clinics. To date, PHSA volunteers have taken on over 224 shifts at the vaccination clinics.

Barbara Henning has volunteered with PHSA for many years, and was eager to support the COVID-19 vaccination clinics when the call came. "I enjoy donating my time," says Barbara. "And right now this is where I need to be. It's where we are at as a society and I'm happy to step in to support wherever and however I'm needed."

Barbara has supported a number of vaccination clinics in Vancouver Community, including the first clinic at Creekside Community Centre when seniors 90 years of age and older were invited to receive their vaccinations. For many seniors, this was their first time out of the house in a year.

"Sometimes my role as a volunteer is to have conversations and help ease anxieties," says Barbara. "The older groups at the clinic were just so happy to have someone new to talk to."

Barbara's health-care volunteer career began when she experienced a brain aneurysm and received care at GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre for a couple of years. Barbara committed that if she got well enough, then she would dedicate her time to volunteering. She trained her dog, WALL-E, to be a therapy dog and WALL-E and Barbara usually spend time at Sunny Hill Health Centre and various units at BC Children's Hospital.

Thank you, Barbara!

Coastal volunteer: Winn Watts

As a former Registered Nurse (RN), Winn Watts wasn't unfamiliar with workings of a busy community hospital when a friend asked her if she'd like to come and help out at the Information Desk 20 years ago.

"Lo and behold, I've never regretted it, never looked back," she chuckles. "I've always enjoyed the camaraderie and it's lovely to think, 'My goodness, I did make a difference!' when I go home," she adds.

For Winn, the best things about her shifts at the Information Desk are making people's day easier by making them feel comfortable and working with a great team of people who have become friends and helped build her confidence along the way.

One of Winn's favourite memories in the past two decades of service is taking part in the Opening Hug of the HOpe Centre in 2014, where hundreds of community members joined hands around the building, bringing the new facility into being.

"It's been an honour and a privilege," she says with a smile.

Thank you, Winn!

Vancouver Acute volunteer: Vivian Lucas

You could say that Vivian has come full circle at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH). She got her first nursing job at the hospital after she graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1967. She then went on to teach at VGH's School of Nursing until 1970, when she relocated to Ontario and continued her thirty-year career as a nurse educator.

After retirement, Vivian came back to B.C. and to VGH, where she's now entering her twelfth year of volunteering, mostly in the Emergency Department (ED).

As someone who enjoys multiple hobbies and maintains a 25,000-step daily fitness goal, Vivian likes to keep it moving. "I chose the ED because I wanted an active area where I could move about a lot," says Vivian.

"I find the relationships with staff very gratifying and I enjoy the contact with the patients without having to make critical clinical decisions," she adds.

Vivian notes that VGH has changed quite a bit since her early nursing days, especially in the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

New protective measures have altered the way volunteers work. "In the ED we try to maintain a six-foot distance from patients and visitors, wear masks and eye protection, and wash and sanitize our hands a lot," says Vivian.

She admits to having numerous stories about her time in the ED, but adds that, "most patients and visitors are gracious and understanding of the [COVID-19-related] precautions in place."

Even though Vivian has had a long health-care career as a nurse, an educator and as a volunteer, she's still learning. She discovered this last year when she was deployed from the ED to the Information Desk.

"It's amazing the things that can be learned when you thought you knew it all!"

Thank you, Vivian!

CEAN volunteer: Debbie Nider 

In 2002, an ad in Richmond News prompted Debbie to become a member of the Richmond Health Advisory Committee. Debbie's involvement continued to evolve as engagement efforts became more regional and the VCH Community Engagement Advisory Network (CEAN; pronounced “keen") was formed. 

As a former dental hygienist, Debbie has always been interested in health care, and her CEAN involvement has provided her with a seat on a variety of committees. One of her highlights is participating on the Clinical and Systems Transformation Committee, a group that was tasked with exploring the concept of one health record per patient. Debbie played an important role by recommending wider patient engagement on the languages used in informed consents for access to medical health records.  

Debbie's volunteer roles have also taken her on occasional tours of hospital facilities, including areas like hospital kitchens and neo-natal wards, and this has contributed to her understanding of how much goes on behind the scenes at VCH. So when the COVID-19 immunization efforts expanded and Debbie heard how many people it takes to run a vaccination clinic during one of Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister Dix's briefings, she was immediately inspired to get involved.

“I thought to myself – this is a no-brainer," Debbie said. "I have the time, energy and great interest, and would love to be a part of the vaccination efforts," 

Debbie has already provided support on three different occasions at two vaccination clinics: East Richmond Community Hall and the Jackson Lam Adult Day Care Centre in Steveston.

Debbie's experience at vaccination clinics has been very positive. Most of the feedback received from clients is how well organized and efficient clinics are, how happy people are to be there and how impressed they are with the people who are there to lead them through the process from  meeters and greeters to staff and medical staff. The joy for Debbie is being the person clients can reach out to in the after care area. 

Debbie encourages anyone who is thinking about volunteering in a vaccination clinic to sign up.

“At the volunteer clinic, it's easy to remember to smile. For some of our clients, this is the highlight of their day and an opportunity for them to feel part of their community," said Debbie. “As a volunteer, I always get as much out of it as I am giving."

With a big smile, Debbie suggests only one improvement for vaccination clinics. “Clinics need more stickers. Everyone wants one!"

Thank you, Debbie!

Learn more about volunteering at Vancouver Coastal Health on our volunteer page

SOURCE: Celebrating our volunteers across VCH ( )
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