Virginia Mason’s Volunteer Companions program aims to alleviate isolation and loneliness, and to decrease pain and suffering for hospitalized patients. The program’s eight trained volunteers visit with patients to help them cope, bringing to the bedside tranquility, empathy, and humor.
“A Volunteer Companion politely enters a patient’s room with no agenda. They are there for the patient, whether it is to provide a pair of listening ears, someone to spend time doing Word Search with, or even just watching TV together,” explains Amy Tufano, Administrative Director of Patient Relations.
The program was launched last year and is funded in part by the Oppenheimer Patient Enrichment Program, which has the overarching goal of enhancing the patient experience. On average, Volunteer Companions provide 38 hours of service per month, and they have collectively had more than 200 individual patient interactions/connections.
“Each patient who invites you into their room wants to share something with you—their story,” a volunteer comments. “Each story is truly unique and memorable: a patient sharing how he met his wife-to-be at a music concert, a 95-year-old who shares her good habits that enable her to live independently still, a patient sharing his childhood events from Kenya. These patients have shared a part of their lives with me and sometimes life advice as well.”
“This program enhances the patient’s experience immensely. Through these authentic connections, we can help in managing a patient’s anxiety, take their mind off their pain, and relieve boredom,” Amy says. “Volunteers hear from nurses, family members, or the patients themselves the benefit of their role—not only providing comfort and companionship, but also improving the patients’ mental, emotional, and social well-being