|Small items, big smiles, break monotony for hospital patients|
|Written by Carol L. Paur/Walworth County Sunday|
|Monday, 28 November 2011 15:55|
Aurora Lakeland Medical Center volunteers, from the left, Bonnie Medley, Eunice Collins, Adele Disabato and Peg Klausa, show the fully stocked Hospitality Cart. The cart offers free comfort items to hospital patients. Photo submitted.
(Read the full story in the e-edition HERE.)
ELKHORN — Beep, beep, beep, beep. The rhythm of the monitor keeps patients company, while outside in the hallway, voices and footsteps rush past their rooms. They’re supposed to rest, but patients often are filled with boredom or loneliness.
Thankfully, the monotony frequently is broken by a cart that rattles up to the door.
“Hello, may I come in?” a cheerful voice asks.
The voice belongs to a smiling volunteer pushing a cart filled with more stuff than a flight attendant’s beverage cart. The cart is laden with magazines, books, small toiletry items and stuffed toys.
“We’re not selling anything,” the volunteer says. “What would you like today?”
The volunteer is part of the Hospitality Cart program, started in 2009 by the volunteer services department at Aurora Lakeland Medical Center. The cart is available most days of the week, and the items are free for patients and families.
“The Hospitality Cart is our newest service. It was developed as a way to enhance the patient experience,” said Kathy Galstad, manager of volunteer services for the hospital. “Afternoons can stretch out endlessly for patients. A visit from the volunteer and the items on the cart offer a welcome diversion to those long hours.”
Galstad continued, “The nursing staff also looks forward to the volunteer with the cart. They give the volunteer a list of patients to visit and know that the volunteer will let them know if a patient needs something other than what the volunteer can provide.”
One of those things was a stuffed teddy bear, according to Sharon Behrens, chief nurse executive for the hospital. The volunteer was Bonnie Medley, the founder of the program.
Medley went to a patient’s room. The nurse at the time asked if they had any teddy bears on the cart. Medley didn’t, but quickly went downstairs to the gift shop to buy one for the patient, Behrens said. The stuffed bear never left the side of the patient, who was alone with no friends or family.
“She (the patient) even had it in her arms at discharge,” said Behrens.
Since that episode, Medley said the volunteers always try to make sure the cart is stocked with stuffed animals.
Along with positive response from patients, the Hospitality Cart program garnered the Wisconsin Award for Volunteer Excellence at this year’s Partners of Wisconsin Hospital Association’s annual convention.
“There are only four of these awards given out for the entire state of Wisconsin,” Medley said. “So, it was pretty special.”
Medley said she thinks the Aurora volunteers were given the award partly for their collaboration with Lakeland School, which is just down County Highway NN from the hospital.
The collaboration is spearheaded by Donna Doebert, a teacher at the school. Adult students create cards and crafts to be distributed along with the other items on the cart.
Students try to do a project a month, Doebert said. For Thanksgiving, they made “Happy Thumbsgiving” pictures with thumbs as turkey feathers. Three classes join efforts to complete various parts of the projects.
“I really appreciate the chance to do this,” said Doebert, who got involved with the cart program last year. “The students are very enthusiastic. It’s a way to give, cheering up someone else.
“It’s opening their eyes up that it’s not all about me. It’s nice that they can give to someone that is sick.”
It also helps patients realize there’s a school “just down the road,” she added.
What’s even more thrilling for the students is a chance to hand-deliver the projects to Medley or even a patient, though patient confidentiality laws limit patient exposure.
“They plan on coming in December to personally drop off the items they have,” Medley said. “The patients love it. The kids love it even more.”
To volunteer for Hospitality Cart or any other program, you must be at least 16 years old. Contact volunteer services at (262) 741-2924 for more information.
“The most important piece, the volunteers, are such an asset to any hospital,” Behrens said. “They are like angels, they do so much. They always do that little extra.”