Thursday, February 28, 2008

Volunteers (and others) rule!

The outpatient oncology clinic is a busy place in our hospital. In addition to the trained medical staff, there are a large number of volunteers, many of them cancer survivors, who help make life a bit easier for those coming for chemotherapy treatments. Here is a note I received yesterday in appreciation of all of them (names have been changed):

Dear Paul:
Beth Israel continues to impress and inspire us. I never would have thought it possible to look forward to coming to a chemo clinic, but that is exactly what happens now, at Shapiro. Mark was diagnosed with cancer in the fall, and we have had the most amazing experience there. But that first visit to the ninth floor is made with trepidation, as you can imagine. Soon enough, however, an adorable volunteer (and cancer survivor) by the name of George gently introduces himself, as he offers juice and biscuits from a little trolley. Through the course of the day, one then meets the other volunteers -- all former chemo patients, which is brilliant inspiration for people facing a great unknown. These precious people -- the same group comes every Monday, as you probably know -- move around the clinic throughout the day, simply putting people like us at ease, offering lunch, treats, even warm blankets. From the very beginning, I felt that Mark and I were in a sort of cocoon of gentle caring. From those wonderfully inspiring photographs of cancer survivors at the elevators, to everyone on staff there -- MDs, nurses, and aides -- it is an amazing experience. I never thought that a cancer clinic could be such a cheery, optimistic place -- I know it isn't always, but it is, for us, often enough, and it is genuine. You're probably well aware of the incredible job that people do there, but I just wanted to let you know that it continues. Just one more reason to cherish our beloved hospital.
Very best,


Anonymous said...

This is a great idea. I recently accompanied a friend for her biweekly outpatient chemorx to Johns Hopkins, where I was a resident 28 yrs ago (it hurts to say that). While the building was physically beautiful, the old inefficiency that I remembered was still very much in evidence, and there was little support from the staff and no volunteers. It seemed to me they had spent all their $$ on making the surroundings pretty, instead of on making the patients more comfortable. Kudos to BIDMC for having your hearts in the right place.

nonlocal MD

Sara said...

It is always amazing to see how the relatively modest, un-glamorous, non-medical care that volunteers provide can make a huge difference to patients. It sounds like volunteers really complement the great clinical care at BIDMC.

Thank you for sharing this letter!

rose_in_awe said...

As the Director of Volunteer Services at a hospital, I never cease to be amazed at the service these community members provide. So much of it is emotionally taxing and demanding - and they do it for free - what's more is we usually reward them by giving them more to do!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so very much for this note of respect and congratulations to our volunteers. FYI: they are ALL cancer survivors.