YNHH begins Comfort Companions Program in York Street MICU

L-R: Elizabeth Locke, volunteer program coordinator; Lynn Page, RN, MICU; Fernanda Clariana, volunteer program coordinator; and Mary Harris, RN, recently retired from the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit.
L-R: Elizabeth Locke, volunteer program coordinator; Lynn Page, RN, MICU; Fernanda Clariana, volunteer program coordinator; and Mary Harris, RN, recently retired from the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit.

Some patients, at the end of their lives, have no family or friends to stay with them and provide a quiet bedside presence.

"Seeing someone die alone — if that person would prefer not to be alone — is distressing to staff," said Jeannette Hodge, director of Patient Relations, Volunteer and Guest Services. "Recently, some nurses suggested that we create a program that would provide a comforting presence to patients during that end-of-life transition. In response to this need, we will implement the Comfort Companions Program on the Medical Intensive Care Unit on the York Street Campus starting in November."

Hodge said that the nurses who had made the suggestion surveyed other hospitals and found that others offer this service to patients, only if they want to have someone with them. The most successful programs enlist employees as volunteers. Mary Harris, a recently retired nurse from the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, volunteered to help create the program, which is seeking volunteers for training that will begin next month.

Mary Harris, a recently retired nurse from the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, volunteered to help create the program, which is seeking volunteers for training that will begin next month.

Once the employee is screened by Volunteer Services, he or she will be scheduled to attend a training program. Employees who volunteer as comfort companions will serve outside of their scheduled work hours and they may not volunteer on the unit where they work. Hodge said that the Comfort Companions Program will be phased in on both campuses within the coming year. Training will be provided by physicians, nurses and staff from palliative care, religious ministries, social work and epidemiology. Volunteers must be one year past the death of a family member or loved one and will be asked to volunteer in 2 -to 4-hour shifts.

"Some employees want to have an impact on direct patient care and being a comfort companion will give them this opportunity," said Hodge. "While this isn't a volunteer experience for every employee, it can be very meaningful to provide a presence or a hand to hold as a patient exits this life." Employees who are interested in the program may visit a Comfort Companions information table in the 2nd floor Atrium on Thursday and Friday, October 11 and 12, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Employees may also contact Volunteer Services at 688-2297.