During February break, I began researching hospice positions around Waltham and, within a week, I received a call back from a volunteer coordinator from Care Dimensions. What I had expected to be an informative conversation about the role of hospice turned into an impromptu interview and an informal offer for a volunteer position. Though I was ecstatic to have a summer job, I was most appreciative
that the volunteer coordinator seemed to understand my fear that I wasn’t ready to visit and form relationships with terminally ill individuals. Since then, I’ve completed six of the eight volunteer trainings she spoke of over the phone, and my confidence has grown with every exercise, Q & A, and guest speaker. All volunteers received a manual covering topics from the role of nurses and social workers to dementia to grief and bereavement. Through the trainings and given resources, I’ve developed a greater understanding of hospice’s mission and of my own contribution toward that mission.
When an individual is admitted to hospice service, it means that two physicians have certified that, if their disease follows a normal course, the patient will likely live no more than six months. Following admission, the patient and family are assigned a care team comprised of a nurse, a social worker, and a chaplain who will visit regularly. This clinical team is assembled to care for a person medically, emotionally, and psychosocially. As part of my training, I met three people representing each aspect of the team and was struck by their commitment to the service they are trained to provide. As they spoke of their duties, they revealed the enthusiasm for their work that drives them to give the highest quality of care possible. I was also lucky to join Care Dimensions just in time to receive an invitation to their summer volunteer appreciation dinner, during which I met people who contribute a variety of talents to the hospice; I chatted with a volunteer coordinator from Danvers about her five pets, I laughed as a media specialist snapped my photo, I asked a woman a million questions about her therapy dog as I petted the very same dog, and I shared my excitement over joining the volunteer team with a woman who later rose to give a speech and introduce herself as the new CEO and president of Care Dimensions.
As I prepared my application to join the WOW program, I already knew that my responsibilities would include an extensive training, weekly social visits to patients, administrative work, and involvement in the
monthly volunteer support meetings. I knew that the volunteer coordinators were lovely people committed to the hospice cause,but I didn’t know just how much everyone at Care Dimensions values the volunteers. The sincerity they express in their gratitude for our service has been my motivation to finish the assigned readings, travel an hour to Waltham for trainings, and ask tough questions. I’ve learned so much about end-of-life care, and I am eager to begin visiting patients and to share the passion and dedication I’ve seen as characteristic of Care Dimensions. My greatest hope for my role as a volunteer is that I can have a positive impact on people who, as a consequence of their situation, are pulling further away from society, but still deserve awareness and respect from their community in a way that preserves their dignity.