As the manager of volunteer services at Hospice of the Red River Valley (HRRV), I get to see first hand the impact our volunteers have on patients and their families. I realized recently that my 10 year anniversary as an employee for HRRV is coming up. This got me thinking back on how I first became involved with Hospice.
My dream in 1993 was to become a patient care volunteer for Hospice of the Red River Valley. I was excited to begin, and I will always remember my first patient. His name was John*. I was asked to provide respite support for him so his caregivers could take a break.
During my first visit, we began to play Uno right away and hit it off wonderfully! After a few games, he began to get sleepy and wanted to nap. I sat in the living room so he was able to rest. When he jiggled the bed rails, that was the sign that he was ready to play Uno again. I came to enjoy this routine on each visit.
Then one day I received the call—John had died.
I was sad, of course, but feeling very rewarded by the whole experience; I wanted to be matched with another patient right away.
This time, I was matched with a gentleman who wanted to watch game shows while his daughter was away at a meeting. This patient could not talk, but I could tell we were connecting when we made eye contact. I will never forget his big brown eyes. My visits to Don* were quiet, but the smiles on our faces made up for the lack of noise.
One day I received the call—Don had passed away.
Through theses experiences, I could not help but think about how the most rewarding things in life were also the most simple; sitting in silence with someone who is very ill, holding someone’s hand and just being with someone when there are no words to speak. This work was comfortable and helped me feel peaceful.
I continued making regular visits to various patients.
In 1998, five years after I began volunteering, I received another type of call. This time, it was from my father’s doctor. My father’s cancer had come back, and all treatment methods had been tried—there was nothing more the medical professionals could do. So I admitted Dad to Hospice. Having had the HRRV volunteer training, I was familiar with what this meant. During the last months of my Dad’s life, I spent my days with him and was grateful for the support of hospice professionals.
In 2001, I learned of an intriguing position at HRRV—volunteer services manager. I am fortunate to say I have been in this position since that time, and have enjoyed every minute.
Stepping out of my comfort zone to be a hospice volunteer has led me along a rewarding path, where I still find the most simple things in a person’s life are the most gratifying. I see this daily as I work with the many wonderful volunteers here at hospice.
Volunteers have such an immeasurable impact on our patients, but I know from personal experience that the volunteer receives much from the patient in return.
We work around your schedule, making volunteering a possibility for nearly everyone, from retirees to full-time workers. If you’ve never thought about volunteering for Hospice, I encourage you to read more stories from our patient care volunteers here. If you have considered volunteering, I hope you’ll take the next step and contact one of our volunteer coordinators to learn more. Or, you can contact me directly at (701) 701-356-1514 or email@example.com.
As a hospice volunteer, you can leave a lasting impact on patients and their families. I can’t tell you how much I’ve gained from the experience, and I hope you will, too.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.
About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.hrrv.org.