Podcast: Volunteer Services at BMC
The Volunteer Services Department at BMC is dedicated to helping BMC fulfill its mission of providing consistently excellent and accessible health services to all in need of care, regardless of status or ability to pay. Our volunteers continue to grow and support staff, patients and their families. Macy Reed, manager of volunteer services at BMC, joins the show to give an overview of the robust volunteer program at BMC, opportunities available, and to provide information on how people can sign up to become a volunteer if they wish.
Macy Reed is the manager of volunteer services at BMC.
Melanie Cole: The volunteer services department at Boston Medical Center is dedicated to helping BMC fulfill its mission of providing consistently excellent and accessible health services to all in need of care. Regardless of status or ability to pay, our volunteers continue to grow and support staff, patients, and families. My guest today is Macy Reed. She's the manager of volunteer services at BMC. Welcome to the show. Give us an overview of the robust volunteer program at Boston Medical Center.
Macy Reed: Thank you so much. At BMC, over the course of the year, we have almost 850 volunteers here who give on average about three hours every week and we have a minimum requirement of about four months, and that equals about 30,000 hours that volunteers give to BMC. We have about 412 volunteers here every single week. Volunteers mainly are here to benefit our BMC patients, so if they have roles that are front facing with patients, helping them find their way across the hospital, doing arts and crafts with kids in the waiting room, reading to patients’ bedsides – really just benefiting the patient experience.
Melanie: What a great program. What opportunities are available? Tell us about the different areas for volunteers that you're looking for.
Macy: Overall, we have about 60 volunteer positions here at BMC, 30 of those were brand new in 2017. We have roles in our emergency department visiting patients’ bedsides. We have our visitor program, which offers one on one support to patients who might be here for a long period of time or just need an extra set of hands and support during their time here. We also have volunteers helping patients find their way through the hospital with all of the construction going on and lots of exciting stuff happening here at BMC. We have volunteers on hand to help patients get to where they need to go. Most importantly, we have our in-house food pantry, which offers food to patients – they just helped their one-millionth patient here – and rely a lot on volunteers to help give out food to our patients.
Melanie: Is there an age requirement to volunteer at Boston Medical Center?
Macy: 16 years old.
Melanie: And what about things like immunizations?
Macy: Anybody who comes to the hospital, and needs a volunteer badge, needs to have immunization, especially a flu shot and a recent TB test.
Melanie: What are you looking for in a volunteer? What types of personalities? If they're going to working with children or cancer patients or in the food pantry, what are you looking for when you're talking to someone about being a volunteer?
Macy: The first thing I ask when I am on the phone with a potential volunteer, I ask them to tell me a little bit about themselves. If they are unable to talk to a stranger, if they're unable to hold a conversation with somebody, they're not an ideal volunteer. What we’re looking for is somebody who can speak with strangers, really approach people, have an interesting dialogue with our diverse patient population.
Melanie: Can someone learn these skills? Do you train if somebody is a little shy at first or maybe they're a little bit uncomfortable around sick people? Is this something that you’ve seen over your years of doing this that can change with somebody where they develop this feeling of ‘oh my gosh, I really can help this person?’
Macy: Absolutely. What we’re striving to do is to grow volunteers here at BMC. We really look for somebody who is able to make more than that four-month minimum requirement, and when they are able to commit to a longer period of time, we have them try out a few different roles like in our food pantry, it's a great way to interact with our patients and really just understand who comes to BMC and all of the great things that happen there, and to grow into a role that might have a little bit more patient interaction that might be a little bit more independent. I really want volunteers to enjoy their time here and gain whatever skills they're looking build while volunteering.
Melanie: What are some of the benefits of volunteering because it’s really such a good thing and a good feeling? Speak about those benefits a little bit.
Macy: Volunteers are really here just to give back, to learn about the community. We now have a lot of volunteers who actually live in Boston, go to school in Boston, really are committed to helping better our community. I think that is a really great benefit. You learn about all of the great things that BMC does. There are so many little programs who do such great things, and I think it opens people's eyes up to all that's going on right outside their front door. In terms of actual benefits, volunteers get one free meal per day when they're here volunteering and then they also get free parking.
Melanie: That’s a nice interesting point for you to make. Provide a little information on the application process.
Macy: Our application process is all online. We definitely recommend people interested in becoming a volunteer visit our website, which is just bmc.org/volunteerservices, and on our website, we have our online application and our volunteer requirements too. To complete an online application, you just spend about five minutes answering a few questions and giving us some more information about yourself as well as submitting two letters of recommendation as well. That can be from anyone – from a neighbor, a friend, a minister, a coworker – really somebody who can just speak to why you would be a good volunteer and it doesn't have to be in length. It can be a recommendation letter that’s three sentences long.
Melanie: Wrap it up for us with what you're looking for in volunteers whether they're going to be working with pediatric patients, whether they're going to be working with cancer patients or geriatric patients or the food pantry. What do you want people to know about how important it is that they volunteer at Boston Medical Center?
Macy: We want people to know that when you volunteer here at BMC, you're doing good. You're helping people. You are making sure that a patient visit is just that much better than what it was last time. We have volunteers helping all over the hospital and really just here to make a difference, to help our staff, to help our patients, to help our mission too, and volunteers are here to make sure that BMC delivers exceptional care without exception.
Melanie: Thank you so much for all the great work that you're working. What a wonderful program. This is Boston MedTalks with Boston Medical Center. For more information about BMC’s volunteer services, please visit bmc.org/volunteerservices. That’s bmc.org/volunteerservices. This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for listening.