April 16, 2012

The Volunteers Informing Patients (VIP) pilot project has been going on at CAMC General Hospital for the past year. In this program, the volunteer services department selects and trains volunteers to provide patients who are 65-years-old and older with a daily visit. Volunteers have been trained to orient patients to time, date and place; provide patients and their families with meaningful interactions and activities; assist patients with non-medical needs and to communicate the patients’ needs to the staff.

“Patients have an excellent response to the VIP program and are always happy to receive a volunteer visit.” said Ashley Johnson, VIP volunteer and full-time nursing student at the University of Charleston. “After I enter a patient’s room and introduce myself as a VIP volunteer, I am almost always greeted with a smile. Patients learn to associate volunteers with a certain level of comfort because we provide items such as pillows, blankets, crossword puzzles – or even just conversation – to improve their hospital stay.”

The VIP program benefits patients in many ways. During a VIP visit, patients are often distracted from any discomfort they may be feeling related to an injury or illness. Volunteers also provide companionship, especially for long-term patients.

“We really get to know many of the patients and are able to develop relationships with them, and these patients truly look forward to volunteer visits,” Johnson said. “During the visit, I collect data by asking basic questions about patients’ health and provide them with a file of life, which is a file that contains a schedule that they can use to organize medications, emergency contacts, and other important information after they are discharged.”

Patients aren’t the only ones who benefit from this program. Staff members on 7 South, where the program is being implemented, have seen reduced use of call lights, increased patient satisfaction and orientation, and increased staff satisfaction.

“I feel that the visits make a huge impact on the satisfaction of our patients who are older than 65,“ said Jennifer Miller, VIP project coordinator. “In our studies we have found that 73 percent of the VIP patient population was without a visitor during VIP visits. This is a huge area where the VIP’s make a difference.”

“Volunteering at CAMC has been an exciting opportunity for me,” Johnson said. “I feel privileged to be able to interact with both patients and medical staff members on a personal level. My experience has been rewarding and fulfilling, and has allowed me to give back to the community by helping others.”

For more information about the VIP program or volunteer services, call (304) 388-7426 or visit camc.org/volunteer.

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