volunteer Diego Ruiz

Diego Alejandro Ruiz is one of the volunteers featured in a YNHH social media campaign, #WhyIDoIt. Meet more of our volunteers and learn why they do what they do: Visit the hospital’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram pages.


Celebrate YNHH volunteers, and find out why they do it

Volunteers are often asked why they volunteer, so this year, Yale New Haven Hospital’s Volunteer Services department decided to find out. Our volunteers’ answers inspired the theme for the hospital’s celebration of National Volunteer Week, April 15 - 21.

“Volunteering in an acute-care hospital is not easy,” said Lynelle Abel, director, Volunteer and Guest Services. “Volunteers have an on-boarding process similar to the process for employees.”

Each prospective volunteer must complete an application and interview and have a background check, flu vaccination and PPD screening. Some volunteers may also need training. Volunteers say the rewards make the onboarding process worth it, Abel said.

Neva Caldwell, who delivers box lunches to Smilow patients every week, is a cancer survivor.

“I have a connection with the patients in those beds; I know what it’s like to be in their shoes,” she said. “I try to give them support and encouragement from someone who’s been there. It helps me, too. It keeps me going and gives me hope.”

“I get such joy out of being able to help patients, even in small ways,” said Doris Ferner, a volunteer at the Smilow Care Center in North Haven. “I feel like I’m making an impact.”

Other volunteers have additional, pragmatic reasons for giving their time.

Gateway Community College student Diego Alejandro Ruiz has volunteered as a patient aide at the Saint Raphael Campus.

“I wasn’t sure about my career path, so I started volunteering at the hospital when I was in high school,” he said. “Volunteering helped me find my purpose. It gave me the drive to excel in school so that one day I can become a nurse.”

As a York Street Campus Emergency Department volunteer, Andrew Vedder, a nursing student at Goodwin College, stocks supplies, makes beds and interacts with patients.

“I’m using this experience to expand my understanding of hospital care,” he said. “This type of experience should be mandatory for anyone trying to enter the healthcare field.”

Volunteers are an integral part of the hospital’s efforts to enhance the patient experience. Whether performing Reiki, walking patients to their destinations or drawing portraits of newborns in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, volunteers often “hit a patient’s experience out of the park,” said Susan Haufe, YNHHS chief experience officer. “Volunteers help ensure we meet and exceed our patients’ and families’ expectations,” she said. “We couldn’t do the work we do without volunteers on our team.”

“There is no way to truly measure the impact of so many goodwill ambassadors, but National Volunteer Week provides an opportunity to shine a light on their gifts of service and compassion,” Abel said. “Please remember to thank our volunteers this week – and every week – for all they do.”