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Wanted: Goodwill Ambassadors

Ann Kichline studies her list as she gets off the elevator on the second floor of Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital. She walks down the hallway and taps on the open door of a patient’s room. A woman calls out for her to come in.

“Hi. I’m Ann,” she says cheerily. “I’m a Patient Ambassador. Just checking to see if everything’s okay.”

Everything is just fine. The woman is going home tomorrow. For the next 20 minutes, she reminisces with Ann about her life, her family and her days making huge pots of soup for a community fiddle-fest. Ann listens and smiles. It may not be therapy in the traditional sense, but for Ann and her fellow volunteer ambassadors, it comes with the territory.

“Our role is to ease some of the anxiety of a hospital stay,” says Bob Yapsuga, who organized the Volunteer Ambassador Program. Bob came to Good Shepherd after retiring from his position as vice president of enrollment at Delaware Valley College.

Volunteers are now present during the admission process and meet with new patients and their families to review the patient resource binder and answer questions about non-medical issues. They also check on patients during their stay and field a variety of inquiries from whether someone may have a beloved blanket brought from home to how to work the television remote control. Ambassadors have even gone down to the Good Shepherd gift shop to pick up gifts ordered by patients.

It’s these little things that can make a big difference during a patient’s stay. Ann knows that from having been a patient herself at Good Shepherd, so she brings a very real perspective to her job as an ambassador.

“This is a helpful thing,” she says. “I would have liked to have known where the café was when I was a patient, or how to find the gift shop. We help take some of the responsibility off the nurses and aides.”

Fay Mackey is another ambassador having retired from working at Good Shepherd as a fund raiser in the development department.  Fay explains that because the program is new, they’re constantly fine-tuning things to better meet the patient’s needs. One woman, for example, wanted to have her hair done, so Fay made an appointment for her with the hair dresser who works with patients and long-term care residents.

Another time, a man brought his wife of 50 years in to be admitted. The man, who was a double-amputee, was worried about getting his wife’s clothes from the car up to her room. Fay was there to help him. “The relief was palpable,” she says. “This couple had been together for so long and had never been apart. It was just a time of great anxiety for them both.”

And when two other patients expressed concern about wasting the generous servings of food which they often could not finish, Fay spoke with the dietary department and learned that they could order half portions.

The comfort of a familiar blanket. A haircut. A friendly chat. A helping hand during an overwhelming time in the lives of patients and their families. The Ambassador Program will continue to evolve and as it does, the Good Shepherd legacy of compassionate care will be strengthened.

“We understand that the patient has had a traumatic experience,” says Fay. “Anything we can do to make him or her more comfortable will go a long way in creating a great impression of Good Shepherd and improving patient satisfaction. I get feedback that our little visits make a difference and that’s wonderful.”

Click here to learn more about Good Shepherd’s Volunteer Program.