Last week, readers learned about Rick Randel’s incredible path to cardiac health. Despite multiple bypasses, surgeries and close calls, through hard work, and help from the folks at TMC’s Cardiac Rehab, he has been able to get and stay healthy.
These days, you can often find Randels over at El Dorado hospital or visiting cardiac patients at TMC.
And he’s in good company.
Randels is joined by a group of other volunteers participating in the cardiac rehabilitation program at Tucson Medical Center can often be found visiting new heart patients, sharing their stories, showing off old scars and letting them know that a full and active life awaits.
“I love going to the ward and talking to the people there,” said Gary Brauchla, a colleague of Randel’s who survived a cardiac arrest in late 2012, only to go on to run in his first 5k race in spring 2013. “It’s amazing to see their faces brighten up when they realize it’s not all gloom and doom,” he said.
Volunteers like Randels and Brauchla are just one piece of the quilt that is the TMC volunteer force.
In fact, on any given day, an average of 87 volunteers are playing important roles throughout the hospital.
In addition to 360 adult volunteers, some of whom are “empty nesters” looking for fulfilling ways to spend their time, the volunteer program also includes as many as 175 student volunteers. Those students are able to bring energy and new insight to their college careers, while building their resumes and professional skills.
Some of the volunteers even have fur and four legs, and can be found comforting patients in the hospital’s pet therapy program.
Among some of the roles volunteers may serve:
- Greeting guests at the entrances, to help steer them in the right direction and begin the check-in process;
- Visiting overnight patients to ensure their immediate needs have been met;
- Sewing pillows and blankets for patients to provide additional comfort;
- Staffing TMC’s resale boutique (Teal Saguaro), infant/breastfeeding support store (Desert Cradle) or the main hospital Gift Shop, with 100 percent of the proceeds supporting hospital programs;
- Assisting nursing staff in the newborn intensive care unit with the smallest, most vulnerable babies, as well as serving new moms and babies in the Mom/Baby unit;
- Ensuring that even though the hospital is a big place, patients can easily get from one area to the next by hopping on volunteer-driven courtesy cars.
Hope Thomas, the director of volunteer services and community programs at Tucson Medical Center, credits the volunteers with making TMC the high-quality hospital that it is. Their efforts translate into more than 86,000 hours annually – or the equivalent of 42 staff positions every year.
And volunteers gain a great deal from the experience as well. Aside from knowing they’re helping others, since they frequently work in pairs, they also develop lasting friendships. That camaraderie is a social outlet that prevents isolation and encourages community engagement.
“If TMC staff is the heart of our hospital, then the volunteers are the soul,” Thomas said. “They’ve earned our trust. We value their efforts because they bring their experiences and their compassion to the patients who need it most.”
Tucson Medical Center tries to find placements for all qualified applicants, asking for a six-month commitment. One word of caution: It can be addicting. Volunteer Norma Fletcher has spent more than 44 years at TMC.
“I think if anyone is interested in volunteering, I’d encourage them to do it, because it helps the community,” she said. “And what they’ll find is they get more out of it than they put into it.”
Those interested in learning more about the volunteer program are encouraged to call 324-5355.