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Published in CenterView on April 30, 2014

New volunteer services director’s goal: Increase number of helping hands

By Ruth Cummins

A month into the job, UMMC’s new director of volunteer services is humbled by the helping hands she puts to work in the Medical Center’s hospitals.

Almost 200 strong, Jane Ellen Wolf’s force of volunteers is just the inspiration to bring her department to a new level when it comes to meeting needs of patients and their families.

“I’m heartened by their enthusiasm and dedication, and their willingness to provide a service they’re not paid for,” said Wolf, who also oversees guest services. “Our nurses and social workers are so grateful for them. It makes your heart smile.”

Wolf’s new mission is to serve and support patients, families and staff by developing, organizing and carrying out the Medical Center’s volunteer programs. That means working with an enthusiastic group of volunteers ages 16 and up and “leading the way to helping people,” Wolf said.

“We’re looking to grow the volunteer services department, and I will be studying the process already in place to see what can be better streamlined,” Wolf said. “We need to do more critical things to grow the department, and I’m going to do a lot of networking to find new volunteers.”

Wolf’s business, marketing and development experiences add a special dimension to the Department of Volunteer Services, said Dana Phelps, UMMC director of patient affairs.

“Above any other, Jane Ellen’s main attribute is her genuine love and compassion for people. It just oozes out of every pore in her body,” Phelps said. “She has such a good rapport with people, and there’s a wonderful and instant trust when you meet her. That’s needed for her position.”

Wolf’s plans include using social media to communicate the Medical Center’s volunteer needs and going straight to hospital departments, including at the new University Heart Center, to ask staff how their need for volunteers can better be met. And, she wants to ensure potential volunteers understand both the demands and the rewards of helping patients of all ages.

“What I’m finding out is that a lot of people think they’re signing their life away when they volunteer,” Wolf said. “They’re not. We only require 30 hours annually, although we’d love volunteers to give more of their time than that.”

Volunteers wearing a distinctive blue vest are needed seven days a week at University Hospital, Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children, Conerly Critical Care Hospital and Winfred L. Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants. Most volunteer during regular weekday hours, although some weekend and night options are available.

Duties of a volunteer include greeting newly admitted patients and giving them hospital information; delivering mail and flowers to patients; providing hospital information to  families and escorting them around the hospital; and serving as liaisons between staff and families to provide information between waiting room, surgery rooms, intensive care units and recovery areas. Volunteers also host game times, such as bingo in the bone marrow transplant unit.

There are plenty of perks to volunteering, Wolf said. Volunteers receive free parking in one of two parking garages, free flu shots, a meal voucher if their volunteer shift lasts four or more hours, and access to UMMC’s Employee Quick Care Clinic.

“It’s great for job skills development and making friends,” Wolf said. “We’ve gotten a lot of student volunteers, and when it’s their last day, they’re sad. They’ve enjoyed it so much.”

Wolf also will build the department through community and corporate partnerships, an endeavor that can involve all ages, Phelps said. “I want every sixth-grade class to make beautiful cards for Valentine’s Day for our adult patients. I want our community to be able to connect with cancer patients,” she said.

“We have to keep our volunteers engaged and interested, and Jane Ellen has fantastic ideas for promoting that through her experiences,” Phelps said. “She’s someone’s daughter, someone’s aunt, someone’s friend, and she is a significant volunteer in her community. She understands those connections, and the strategy and methodology behind the business we are running.”

For more information on volunteering at UMMC, contact Wolf at Volunteer Services, (601) 984-2068.