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Shawn McMartin, Eau Claire
Volunteering to make a difference: Providing comfort to families and friends of surgery patients
For the past four years, I have volunteered at Mayo Clinic Health System once a week in the Surgery family waiting area, which is an interface point between patients, their families and the hospital. We answer incoming calls, give directions, relay admission information to area church congregations and keep families informed of their loved one’s surgery progress. We handle post-surgery consultations between the family and surgeon, and occasionally provide toys to keep young children occupied.
I love the problem-solving aspect of this position. It keeps my skills sharp and provides an outlet for me to give back to the community. When I volunteer here, I know that I am making a difference. Having personally been on both sides of the surgery process, as a patient and waiting family member, I know that it can be an unnerving process. The volunteers in this area work hard to help lower some of the inevitable anxiety associated with surgery. I am delighted when I can see that I’ve made someone’s day a little brighter.
While I have many wonderful stories from volunteering, one story comes immediately to mind. One day, a young man was waiting during his wife’s surgery. He looked bewildered as he awkwardly held their newborn in his arms. In time, the baby began to get fussy. I could see that the baby was hungry. The man told me his wife usually nursed the baby, and he did not have anything to feed her. Since the baby had just been born here, I was able to call the newborn nursery she had just been discharged from. They were able to provide a supplemental feeding for the infant. The relief that registered on the young man’s face was priceless.
Volunteering at Mayo Clinic Health System was a natural fit for me. I used to work in the Telecommunication Center at Mayo Clinic Health System – Red Cedar in Menomonie. My husband and I have been associated with area emergency medical services for years, so I feel comfortable in the health care setting.
Volunteering here has been a fulfilling way to stay sharp, keep busy and interact with the community in a constructive way. I know that patient families may not remember me, but I remember them. It is rewarding to finish a shift and go home knowing that my help has made a positive difference in someone’s life that day..
Like Shawn, you, too, can volunteer at Mayo Clinic Health System. You must be at least 14 years old to volunteer. All ability levels are welcome.