Two dynamic volunteer programs transform into one inspiring team

The Breast Center Patient-for-Patient support program, one of YNHH's newest volunteer programs, gives newly diagnosed and current breast cancer patients the opportunity to talk with a volunteer who has experienced a similar diagnosis and treatment. Patient-for-Patient volunteers include Brenda White, left, who is also executive assistant to Richard D'Aquila, president and COO, and Kim Dwyer, who is also chair of the Looking Forward Advisory Council.
The Breast Center Patient-for-Patient support program, one of YNHH's newest volunteer programs, gives newly diagnosed and current breast cancer patients the opportunity to talk with a volunteer who has experienced a similar diagnosis and treatment. Patient-for-Patient volunteers include Brenda White, left, who is also executive assistant to Richard D'Aquila, president and COO, and Kim Dwyer, who is also chair of the Looking Forward Advisory Council.

Just over a year after the integration of the Hospital of Saint Raphael and Yale-New Haven Hospital, the Volunteer Services programs based on each campus came together as one team.

Now more than 2,400 strong, YNHH volunteers bring their special talents to departments, patient care units and clinics, enhancing the patient experience in more ways than many employees probably realize.

YNHH volunteers will celebrate National Volunteer Week April 6 - 12 with the theme Yale-New Haven Hospital Volunteers ... Stories of Transformation and Inspiration.

"The annual National Volunteer Week is always a good time to recognize our volunteers for all of their great work," said Lynelle Abel, YNHH director of Volunteer Services. "This year's celebration is exceptionally special since we are also celebrating the successful transformation of our two volunteer programs into one grand, united group.

"We selected this theme because not only have we transformed our program, but our volunteers, through their own stories about why they volunteer, continue to inspire our patients and employees alike," Abel added.

Integrating the two Volunteer Services departments entailed lots of logistics. Challenges included combining the adult, college and high school volunteers as well as service learning, internship and community outreach programs. In addition, the department had to coordinate volunteer on-boarding, training and orientation, and policies, procedures and position descriptions to ensure consistency. Integration also included coordinating the various volunteer programs to determine which from each campus could be replicated on the other campus.

YNHH volunteers, who range in age from high school students to seniors, served more than 206,000 hours in 2013 in more than 150 areas of the hospital. In addition to the main New Haven campuses, volunteers also serve in various other locations, including Shoreline, Temple and North Haven medical centers, Long Wharf, Bridgeport Hospital pediatrics and Smilow Care Centers throughout the state.

While most employees recognize red-jacketed volunteers directing visitors at various welcome desks, YNHH volunteers help in many other areas and go well beyond the traditional roles. Whether cuddling babies in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit, painting landscapes at a patient's bedside, providing Reiki treatments for patients or working in the pet therapy program, volunteers are serving in every corner of the hospital.

Throughout 2014, Volunteer Services will continue to fine-tune its infrastructure and follow the hospital's strategic focus by building programs and services across the campuses that benefit patients and families.

"Please remember to thank a volunteer within your department or work group or volunteers you see in your travels around the hospital, during Volunteer Week and every week," Abel said. "Our volunteers are truly part of our healing mission."

Volunteer Services will host a celebratory dinner for YNHH volunteers in June.