We rise by lifting others: Enhancing quality of care with Volunteer Services

Volunteer plays ring toss

Many of us are familiar with the stress and anxiety that overcome us the moment we walk into a hospital or health care facility. 

But imagine the feeling of comfort when walking into a palliative care unit to the lingering smell of freshly baked goods, or when being greeted by a friendly smile and helpful hand as soon as you enter the doors of a hospital. With Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) Volunteer Services, all of this is possible.

Across the province, NSHA Volunteer Services engage close to 7,000 volunteers in more than 886 programs throughout our health care facilities. Ranging anywhere from 15 to 95 years old, some volunteers choose to make six-month commitments to help and some have been volunteering for more than 40 years.

The kindness and generosity of volunteers have a tremendous and positive impact on the experience of our patients, family members and friends. Each day, they contribute greatly to the welcoming and caring environment of health facilities across the province.

That’s why we celebrate National Volunteer Week every year.

For the month of April, we’re taking the opportunity to highlight, celebrate and thank our many volunteers for the work they do to improve patient care. 

 “Volunteers play a critically important role in the health system. They give their time and talent in so many ways. The value of their contributions cannot be measured,” NSHA President and CEO Janet Knox said, “It is a priceless gift.”

There is no doubt that volunteers have a part to play in patient and client care. When care teams work together with volunteers, they can provide a special kind of support that looks at the whole person — to care for the mind, body and soul.

One service that highlights this is the patient visiting and companionship program. In this program, volunteers visit with patients and take the time to talk, listen or just sit with patients. 

“For a moment, patients are able to step away from their worries and take their mind off of concerns about some of the things that are going on in their lives,” Volunteer Services Manager Sara Langford said. 

The programs offered by Volunteer Services can be as simple as playing a game of bocce ball with veterans at Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Building, but no matter what the program is, they have an immeasurable impact on those who participate.

“Watching the veterans play, laugh and have fun is the most rewarding experience. Not only has this become the highlight of my week, but it’s also become theirs,” said one NSHA volunteer. “One of the veterans even came up to me and told me how much they appreciate us because when we don’t come in, they don’t get to play at all.”

In many instances, patients have such a positive experience with the volunteers they encounter, that they are inspired to return to the facility as volunteers themselves.

One such example is a team of recovered open-heart surgery patients who come back to share their experiences with patients undergoing the same procedure. According to medical staff, these volunteers have a fascinating calming effect on those with whom they share their stories.

The programs provided by Volunteer Services across the province are as diverse as the volunteers who participate in them. Some programs even give volunteers the opportunity to share their professional skills, musical talents, pets, recreation and sports interests, and more to enhance the health care experience of patients, Veterans, clients and families.  

“What’s important for Volunteer Services is that we understand what motivates a person to come through our doors, so finding the position that aligns with their interests and time is really important and leads to a committed volunteer team,” Volunteer Services Assistant Manager Berni Duda said.

Anyone with a passion to help others who is interested in volunteering in a health care setting can contact NSHA Manager of Volunteer Services Sara Langford at sara.langford@nshealth.ca or Berni Duda at berni.duda@nshealth.ca

Learn more about Volunteer Services.