When Bonnie Haines of Pike Creek volunteers in Christiana Care’s Emergency Department (ED), she’s there to help provide exceptional patient service at one of the nation’s 20 busiest hospitals for emergency care — encompassing 139 emergency beds across three campuses at Christiana Hospital, Wilmington Hospital and Middletown Emergency Department.
Haines begins at the triage desk and asks how she can assist the staff in their demanding jobs over the next two hours. Often she finds herself chatting with patients on stretchers before they are assigned to a treatment room, asking if she can provide a heated blanket or track down an answer to a question.
“People appreciate that I am willing to listen, solve problems and help in whatever way I can. It’s very rewarding when you feel that your efforts have assisted a family,” said Haines, who along with husband, Alan, is a member of the Christiana Care Medical Reserve Corps. Since January, 13 members of this unique team of trained volunteers have expanded their roles to provide comfort and support to patients and hospital staff in the Emergency Department.
The volunteer efforts of the Medical Reserve Corps members are enormously helpful, given that some days the emergency departments can see 350 patients or more, said Linda Laskowski Jones, MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, CEN, FAWM, vice president of emergency and trauma services.
“While our doctors and nurses are focused on a patient’s medical condition, the Medical Reserve Corps volunteers can connect with people on a very human level,” Laskowski Jones said.
The Christiana Care Medical Reserve Corps is part of a national network of volunteers, organized locally, to improve the health care, emergency preparedness and response capabilities of their communities, as well as to support overall health and wellness efforts. The nationwide network is made up of close to 1,000 community-based units, with almost 200,000 volunteers. Across the nation, Medical Reserve Corps volunteers prepare for natural and man-made disasters, as well as other emergencies affecting public health, such as disease outbreaks. Members include medical and public health professionals, along with volunteers with no health background.
Only 4 percent of Medical Reserve Corps are hospital-based. One of those is the 90-member Christiana Care Medical Reserve Corps, which was created to enhance the surge capacity of the health system during a mass-casualty incident. The Christiana Care Medical Reserve Corps also promotes citizen emergency preparedness among hospital employees and the community at large, while offering other volunteering opportunities.
To stay ready, the volunteers meet monthly for lectures and training, and participate in drills and exercises. This new partnership with the Emergency Department has been a natural extension of their training, providing an opportunity to interact with patients and hospital staff, and maintain familiarity with hospital procedures..
“When patients and their family members visiting our emergency departments are approached by a Christiana Care volunteer in a red Medical Reserve Corps polo shirt, they should know that they will be in good hands,” said P. Jane Walmsley, MPH, Medical Reserve Corps coordinator, Safety and Emergency Management. “I know that our dedicated Medical Reserve Corps volunteers have the skills and passion to make significant contributions through ED rounding.”
The growing success of this volunteer effort is supported by collaboration among Emergency and Trauma Services, Patient Experience, Volunteer Services and the Medical Reserve Corps program, said Shawn Smith, MBA, vice president, Patient Experience. “All these departments have come together because we believe in building trust and showing patients that we care about them,” said Smith. “Along with our talented clinicians, our volunteers are making a huge difference for our families.”
Overall, Christiana Care has about 1,200 volunteers who assist in a variety of roles throughout the health system. The Christiana Care Medical Reserve Corps, based and managed in the Office of Safety and Emergency Management, is always looking for committed individuals willing to volunteer their skills and knowledge when an emergency or disaster strikes.
“Whether you have medical skills, public health skills, mental health skills or simply want to contribute to health and safety, there is place for you in the Christiana Care Medical Reserve Corps,” said Margarita Rodriguez-Duffy, MSW, CAVS, director, Volunteer and Visitor Services.