Where would we be without the lovely people who train our volunteers and help them feel confident in a hospital setting? We’re very thankful for the people who work behind the scenes to make our volunteers feel comfortable in their role.
Cierra Barnes and Gary Nuttall are two of those people. They’re skilled in the area of Recreational Therapy and are part of the team that trains volunteers. They assist volunteers on their first few shifts and maintain an open-door policy for any follow up questions or advice.
Gary has over 33 years’ experience as a Recreologist at the MUHC. When it comes to volunteering, he believes that the most important thing isn’t actually the service that’s being offered (i.e., serving the coffee or snacks, or providing supplies) … what matters most is the time spent talking with patients.
“We want volunteer work to ultimately be about friendly conversation and general assistance to patients, helping to alleviate their possible boredom, anxiety or loneliness. A patient may be unable to express their desire to have a conversation, so I think the biggest accomplishment is when volunteers are able to engage calmly and genuinely so that the patient feels heard and respected.”
Gary attests to the reality that, at times, patients can look more closed-off than they actually feel. They can appear tired, unhappy, or angry until you get to talking to them. A gentle approach and a few kind words can often break the ice and help them feel more at ease to interact with a volunteer.
“The same approach is taken when training volunteers; the more comfortable and relaxed they feel, the more sincere and effective they’ll be on the job. I try to lighten things up with small talk and humour in interviews and during orientation sessions, with the intention of reducing any potential nerves that the new volunteer may be feeling.”
Cierra is a Recreational Therapist with a huge heart. She loves to working with volunteers especially when she mentors them and guides by having them shadow her in their early days.
“If the volunteer feels comfortable, I’ll step back and let them try interacting autonomously with the patient. After the interaction is finished, we leave the room together, and I ask the volunteer ‘How did that feel? Were you comfortable?’ We start building our relationship from that point.”
Cierra admires the many reasons why people find themselves volunteering. She loves that volunteers come from diverse backgrounds and that they have different strengths. She always encourages volunteers to be themselves.
“People wonder if they have what it takes to volunteer, and the truth is that you just have to be yourself. Be true to your personality, even if you’re somewhat shy. That’s what makes the MUHC such a nice place.”
There are so many people to thank when it comes to the behind-the-scenes training given to volunteers. On this International Volunteers Day, celebrated December 5 worldwide, the MUHC thanks Gary and Cierra; those who train volunteers at the Montreal Children’s Hospital; MUHC staff who counsel volunteers on their units; and finally, our amazing volunteers themselves! Your warm presence makes all the difference to patients.
Becoming a volunteer is a great experience for individuals of all ages: students, adults, and retirees. If this opportunity interests you, please submit your candidacy here.