​​​​​Emma, volunteer and dog
Emma Pavlov, UHN Executive Vice President of Human Resources & Organizational Development, (L) and volunteer Kathy McPherson, pet handler for “Snickers,” pose with the Schnoodle, who is with the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program and participates in the pet therapy program on the geriatric rehab unit at Toronto Rehab. (Photo: UHN)​

To mark 2016 National Volunteer Week, UHN's four hospital Executive Leads and UHN's Executive Vice President of Human Resources & Organizational Development, were asked to shadow volunteers in various roles to see the work that volunteers do and get a sense of the impact they are having in the lives of patients, families, visitors and staff. 

Here's a look at what they did and what they had to say.

​National Volunteer Week
​April 10-16​​, 2016

Emma Pavlov, UHN's Executive VicePresident of Human Resources&Organizational Development

  • Choose three to five words to sum up the experience of shadowing a volunteer
    • "Inspired, grateful, amazed, calm, joyful."
  • What most surprised you about this experience?
    • "The extent to which both patients and staff enjoyed the experience.
    • The smiles everywhere, including the dog.
    • The patience of the volunteer and her interaction with the patients, many of whom she obvious knew from earlier visits."
  • What was most meaningful in this experience; what message will you bring back to your colleagues about our UHN Volunteers?
    • "They are so dedicated to improving the patient experience here.
    • She obviously enjoyed what she was doing. It is helpful if a volunteer contributes in an area she is passionate about, bringing skills that the patient needs."
  • What are your parting words for our amazing volunteers?
    • "We love you, keep doing what you are doing, our patients need you."

Kathy Sabo and volunteer

UHN Senior Vice President and TWH Executive Lead, Kathy Sabo (R) goes over an activity list with HELP volunteer Harsh Desai. The HELP team visits in-patients one-on-one to engage them in activities such as reading, mobility exercise or outings to other parts of the hospital.        (Photo: UHN)


Kathy Sabo, UHN Senior Vice President and Toronto Western Hospital Executive Lead

This week during National Volunteer Week, I had the pleasure of shadowing three of our volunteers who assist with wayfinding in their role as navigators, provide clinical support in the fracture clinic and support patients as part of the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) on two of our General Internal Medicine inpatient units at Toronto Western. 

The experience was enjoyable, insightful and humbling.  

I was surprised by how integral the volunteers are to the running of these programs and departments and impressed by the interactions they have with patients and their families and the impact they have.  And I was moved by their commitment to this hospital, their knowledge of their areas and drive to help make a positive contribution.

It is inspiring to spend time with people who give back to their community.   I would like to suggest that other leaders and staff shadow a volunteer for one hour to understand their contributions and be inspired!

Thank you to all of our volunteers for the enthusiasm and the passion you bring to your roles. You make TWH and UHN a friendly and efficient place for all our patients.  You are an important part of our healthcare teams. 

We couldn't do the work we do without you!

Sue Jewell and volunteer
(L to R) Sue Jewell, Senior Vice President and Toronto Rehab Executive Lead, chats with Melanie Misener and Ryan Sanford during a volunteer shadow on unit 10 South at Toronto Rehab. (Photo: UHN)

Sue Jewell, UHN Senior Vice President and Toronto Rehab Executive Lead

  • Choose three to five words to sum up the experience of shadowing a volunteer
    • "Gratitude, Impressed, Inspired."
  • What most surprised you about this experience?
    • "I wasn't really 'surprised' by the experience but rather it reaffirmed for me how important the role of the volunteer is to both patients and health care team members.  I was pleased to see such close, positive interaction between the staff and volunteers and between the volunteers and patients.  The staff brought the volunteers directly into the patient therapy session and treated them as part of the team which I believe made the experience so meaningful for all."
  • What was most meaningful in this experience; what message will you bring back to your colleagues about our UHN Volunteers?
    • "I learned from both volunteers how much they love the role and how meaningful it is for them – both in terms of learning and growing and in giving back.  Both volunteers were young university students with very full plates, but both recognize and actively embrace the value of learning directly from patients, and from professionals as they shape their own careers of the future."
  • What are your parting words for our amazing volunteers?
    • "I want to thank the volunteers I met with today for their dedication, energy and commitment to the role of volunteer.  They reaffirmed for me that even the busiest people are willing to take time out of their day in order to give back and help to make another person's life a little better. The patient and health care team experience is truly enhanced through interactions with the volunteers they work with, and we are very grateful."
Marnie Escaf and volunteer
Marnie Escaf, Senior Vice President and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre Executive Lead, with volunteer Irene Payne in the hospital's wig salon. (Photo: UHN)

Marnie Escaf, UHN Senior Vice President and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre Executive Lead

  • Choose three to five words to sum up the experience of shadowing a volunteer.
    • "Inspired, proud, admiration."
  • What most​ surprised you about this experience?
    • "Nothing surprising but it was really wonderful to see the work."
  • What was most meaningful in this experience; what message will you bring back to your colleagues about our UHN Volunteers?
    • "We have a dedicated group of individuals that contribute to the patient experience."
  • What are your parting words for our amazing volunteers?
    • "THANK YOU!! We could not achieve our patient satisfaction results without you."

Scott McIntaggart with volunteer
Scott McIntaggart, UHN Senior Vice President and Executive Lead at Toronto General Hospital, (Back L) poses with volunteers from TGH after shadowing them. (Photo: UHN)​

Scott McIntaggart, UHN Senior Vice President and Toronto General Hospital Executive Lead

Wearing a volunteer vest, Scott shadowed volunteers in the Cardiac Critical Care and Catheterization Lab Waiting room, the Multi-Organ Transplant Clinic and the University Avenue Information Desk.

Scott, who was a candy striper/volunteer at the age of 13 in a Midland hospital, appreciates the vital role of volunteers at TGH, who help with everything from keeping patients and families informed in clinics and waiting rooms, to fielding hundreds of requests from visitors who are not sure of where they to find a clinic or patient room.  At the University Avenue Information desk alone, volunteers help with the 350 or more requests a day.

Karen Robson, the volunteer in the cardiac waiting room, orients families to the critical care areas, and has the most up-to-date information about where their loved ones are at any point in the critical care journey. Karen, who has been volunteering for the past four years for two days a week, even bakes ginger cookies for families. "Volunteering is the best thing I've ever done. I can be effective because I understand the stress and worry of families, as I've lived through it myself."

Scott also met with student volunteers in the Multi-Organ Transplant Program who help with the clinic flow by escorting patients to just-cleaned rooms, making sure they get in and out on time to catch rides, helping with the patient hand hygiene survey, and providing vital basic information to physicians. One volunteer likes talking to patients so much, he hopes to become a transplant physician – perhaps even in this same clinic where he volunteers.

In thanking the five volunteers for today's sessions at TGH, Scott noted: "What you do is vital to our hospital, to our patients and families who rely upon you.

"We could not do our job without your help. We're grateful for everything that you do."​​

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