A human GPS system at Juravinski Hospital
A GPS system is often cause for frustration…steering you into construction, waiting too long to prompt you for a turn, winding you through an indirect route. But at Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre (JHCC) the GPS acronym creates a feeling of comfort. It stands for Guiding People Services, a new program run through Volunteer Resources that helps patients feel welcome and reduces the anxiety of a hospital visit.
Charlie Collura is one of GPS’s first volunteers. Every Monday and Friday he spends four hours at the main entrance of JHCC greeting patients and leading them to their appointments if they need guidance.
“You can see the anxiety in their eyes when they walk in,” he says. “To alleviate a bit of that by saying hello, offering to take them where they need to go, it’s important.”
“She was leaving from her hip replacement surgery. I had helped guide her to her initial consultation appointments. When she was getting into the car, her husband came back in and got me. She wanted to see me so she could say thank you for everything I had done.”
The program supports the essential work of Information Desk staff and brings the mantra “show, don’t point” to life. It has reinforced the value of guiding patients and families to their appointments across the hospital, and has even encouraged other staff to lead someone who looks lost or confused.
Collura welcomes everyone who comes in the door, walks or wheels people to their appointments, and waits with patients if their loved one needs to park the car.
“It’s such a unique way of helping people,” says the grandfather of two. When he retired from banking after 31 years, Collura knew he needed to find a volunteer opportunity that would allow him to interact with people, and stay active at the same time. In addition to walking about 5 kilometres each shift, he gets to see the direct impact he has on each patient’s experience.
“I see this as a five-star hospital. And our patients deserve this.”
“I had one woman crying on her way out of the hospital,” he remembers. “She was leaving from her hip replacement surgery. I had helped guide her to her initial consultation appointments. When she was getting into the car, her husband came back in and got me. She wanted to see me so she could say thank you for everything I had done.”
Collura knows that to an outsider, interactions like this may seem minor. But to the people he’s guiding, they’re like an umbrella in a rainstorm. In the few minutes he spends walking someone to their visit, he can shelter them from the stress of the unknown—the unfamiliarity of the hospital, the test results they’re waiting for, the prospect of seeing a loved one who may not recover.
“Patients and families are very appreciative,” says Liz DeLuca, a Volunteer Resources coordinator at JHCC. “Since the program started this summer, we’ve seen really positive reactions to the service. It helps relieve a lot of stress.”
That relief can set someone on the right footing as they begin their hospital experience. And being part of that is very important to Collura. “I think of it as, ‘how are you treated when you walk into a five-star hotel?’. I see this as a five-star hospital. And our patients deserve this.”
To learn more about the GPS program and how you can volunteer, click here.