Reaping Rewards Volunteers know that not all rewards are financial.
In every hospital there is a corps of hard workers who never receive a paycheck. Nurses, doctors, lab technologists, dieticians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, food service workers, engineers, clerks, and housekeepers all receive a salary. Hospital volunteers never receive a paycheck.
I’ve been a hospital volunteer for nearly 30 years. I’ve never been able to cash my rewards nor put them in the bank, but I’ve definitely collected them.
Most of my volunteer hours were earned in the hospital gift shop. I’ve also manned the information desk and served as a floor aide, doing small things that help patients through difficult days. I’ve delivered flowers and mail, freshened water pitchers, and filled out birth certificate forms for new moms. I’ve spent time listening to patients who are lonely or worried. I’ve done myriad small jobs that nurses don’t have time to do.
I’ve felt appreciated time and again by both patients and staff.
I’ve learned to be a good listener. People come to the hospital gift shop to browse and pass the time while they wait for someone in surgery, wait for a baby to make an appearance, or wait for a person having tests. Often, they’re so worried or so excited that they can’t concentrate. Whatever is on their mind pours out before we’ve barely said hello. Somehow a volunteer wearing the hospital auxiliary smock and a smile reassures them, and they share their joys or sorrows.
I’ve learned to give advice when asked, “Which one of these flower arrangements do you like?” Sometimes I’ll suggest other items. Occasionally, I offer sympathy to a grieving relative. Hitting the happy medium between ignoring their plight and being too consoling is not always easy.
I’ve gotten to know hospital employees when the aroma of the cookies we bake lures them down to pick up snacks and drinks. Busy staff members also run down to our shop to do last-minute shopping for a gift.
Someone asked me once why I gave so much time to the hospital when I received nothing in return. “That’s where you’re wrong,” I answered. “I receive the satisfaction of knowing I’ve made someone’s day a little easier. I like listening to the stories customers share with me. I enjoy being an ambassador for my hospital.”
Once a year, the hospital honors all volunteers at a luncheon. I see a lot of the same people at the luncheon every year. Hospital volunteers tend to stay on the job for a long time. They’re satisfied workers who don’t look for a paycheck for their once-a-week shift.
They reap other rewards.