Former hospital volunteer Maggie Chadwick still has a volunteer uniform like the one she used to wear. (Contributed photo)

Former hospital volunteer Maggie Chadwick still has a volunteer uniform like the one she used to wear. (Contributed photo)

Red Deer hospital volunteers continue to brighten patients’ days

Volunteers assist during the pandemic

Forty years ago a high school teen volunteering at the Red Deer’s new hospital gave visitors directions during the grand opening of the facility on Feb. 19, 1981.

Maggie Chadwick, who eventually got a job as a hospital housekeeper, said she was happy to participate in the celebration that day with her fellow volunteers, and when the next expansion of the hospital is complete, she will gladly attend that ceremony too.

That expansion project is in the planning and design phase.

Chadwick, who still has one of the red and white striped uniforms previously worn by volunteers, said she started volunteering because she just loved visiting with patients, and they always appreciated her cheery attitude.

By 1985, she had volunteered more than 1,250 hours over four-and-a-half years — the most hours any hospital volunteer had ever done — and received an award for exemplary service.

Delivering flowers to patients was the steadfast volunteer’s favourite activity, but she also handed out meal trays, pushed the library cart, sold newspapers, fed babies, and even helped put on a puppet show for pediatric patients.

In 1988, Chadwick got a job as a housekeeper at the hospital. She has worked there ever since and still loves getting to know patients and working with staff.

“I’ve been cleaning (the x-ray department) for 16 years now. I tell them they’re all family. Every department is amazing,” said Chadwick, who will mark 34 years on the job come April, and is currently off work due to an injury.

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Another dedicated volunteer Delinda Marshal, who put on that puppet show with Chadwick and was also recognized for volunteering over 1,000 hours.

“I like working with people and cheering them up,” said Marshall, who also went on to become a housekeeper at the hospital. She will reach 34 years of employment at the hospital this month.

Marshall was not yet volunteering at the hospital when the Feb. 19, 1981 grand opening was held. But she was working the day Queen Elizabeth II visited the new pediatric unit for its grand opening on June 28, 1990.

“We were just standing there by pediatrics and she actually talked to me. She came right in front of me. Asked what my uniform was. I said it was housekeeping.”

“I was kind of in a daze. She talked to me face to face,” Marshall said.

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Volunteering at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre continued during the pandemic with only a few volunteers at first to assist with screening visitors, help people find their way around the hospital, and taking hemodialysis patients to where they needed to go.

“As the months progressed, as it was safe to do so, and we had site approval to do so, small numbers came back,” said Darci Shave, co-ordinator with the Volunteer Resources department.

“As the pandemic comes to an end we’ll get everybody back, and get everybody on board, and it will be a glorious reunion. We’re missing our people, that’s for sure.”

The hospital has 350 youth and adult volunteers, and 178 of them are currently on short-term leave either because their position has not been approved to resume, or they don’t feel comfortable returning yet.

There are also 36 registered religious community advisors, sanctioned by their faith community, who visit patients from their congregation, or provide spiritual care programming.

Another 26, who volunteer remotely, participate in projects or with committees, to provide the voice of the community. Some of them sit on the redevelopment committee to provide input on the hospital’s expansion.

Brenda Farwell, co-ordinator with Volunteer Resources, said volunteer roles have expanded and changed through the years.

“As medical technology and program delivery changes, we’ve adapted. We’ve evolved to being more formalized, more structured and more credible in our volunteer work,” Farwell said.

Volunteers now have roles in the emergency department, diagnostic imaging unit, and end of life care.

“Volunteers never replace staff, but compliment the care staff are providing. They bring a social wellness factor to hospitalization. They bring the community to our hospital and brighten the day for our patients. When patients are interacting with volunteers, they’re able to refocus their thoughts on things that are not health-care centred.”

Farwell said volunteering also introduces youth to the health care system and have put them on the path to a health care career.



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

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Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre