The Poplar St. parking lot at the Juravinski Cancer Centre is closed from June 3 to September 27. Click here for more info.

Hamilton Health Sciences Home
Behavioural Health volunteer initiative
June 20, 2017

Embrace the value of volunteers

There are over 1000 volunteers that provide over 200 services across Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS). Since volunteers are an integral part of HHS, the Volunteer Resources department strives to create a culture that values all volunteers. To encourage programs to partner with volunteers, each year Volunteer Resources presents the Partnership Award. Through an application and judging process, this award recognizes a program for the support and integration of volunteers.

On June 21st, Volunteer Resources proudly presented the 2017 Partnership Award to the Behavioural Health Program at St. Peter’s Hospital for successfully implementing an expanded volunteer initiative.

In 2016, the Behavioural Health Program began working with Volunteer Resources to expand its volunteer support in order to increase the patient experience. The Behavioural Health Program is a specialized service for adults who have a diagnosis of dementia, and exhibit challenging behaviours that require a secure environment and an increased level of care. The goal is to discharge patients back to a community setting at an appropriate level of care.

“We’re incredibly grateful for our volunteers and are constantly in awe of their ability to bring such joy to our patients’ lives.”

The program incorporates patient activities, in which volunteers are needed to provide one-on-one support. The new volunteer initiative allows individuals to choose an area or task of interest, such as music, art, tea and therapeutic recreation. Due to common interests, this ensures a more valuable interaction for both the volunteer and the patient.

“Our volunteers have a gentle and warm approach that helps our patients to engage in activities. Even a simple smile or laugh with a volunteer brightens their day and enriches their quality of life. We’re incredibly grateful for our volunteers and are constantly in awe of their ability to bring such joy to our patients’ lives,” says Dr. Joanna Sue, clinical psychologist, Behavioural Health Program.

Since launching the new volunteer initiative patient activities are now scheduled multiple times a day, every day of the week, offering lots of opportunities for volunteers. Each activity provides clear structure and instruction for volunteers, making it easier to participate. This includes reviewing the staff created patient profiles before each session to learn a general history and interests. Volunteers also update the profiles after each visit, which not only provides a better understanding of patients’ interests, but helps staff communicate patient progress to the family.

The initiative has become such a valuable part of the Behavioural Health Program that it has been embraced by all staff. Volunteers are supported, encouraged and treated like part of the team. Also, many of the experienced volunteers act as mentors to new volunteers to help foster a welcoming and supportive community.

Launching this initiative began with Dr. Joanna Sue and is now managed by therapeutic recreationalist Naomi Dyon. Due to their efforts the number of volunteers has gone from four, to more than 30, with almost 100% retention!

“Dr. Joanna Sue was instrumental in facilitating this volunteer initiative by working with Volunteer Resources to ensure a more effective recruitment process,” says Liz Mersereau, clinical manager Behavioural Health Program. “The key to its success has not only been enhancing the initiative, but having her, and now Naomi, as the point person to maintain operations and communication.”