Get to know your patient by getting to know a volunteer mentor

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Longtime volunteer Joan Blum, second from the left, joins the 2017 Tuck-In Team to receive the Spirit Award at a Volunteer Awards luncheon. Her nearly three decades of volunteering will be a great resource for the volunteers she mentors.

Longtime volunteer Joan Blum, second from the left, joins the 2017 Tuck-In Team to
receive the Spirit Award at a Volunteer Awards luncheon. Her nearly three decades
of volunteering will be a great resource for the volunteers she mentors.

Volunteer Joan Blum has been with Hospice of the Chesapeake longer than most of our employees. Over 28 years ago she began as a patient care volunteer, then added different roles throughout her long tenure including vigil, community outreach, tuck-in caller, and bereavement caller. During the pandemic, she become a caring caller, faithfully reaching out each Thursday to around 35 patients and their families to check in on them and be a friendly voice who understands what they are going through. Another way she volunteers is as a mentor for other volunteers.

We had to suspend our mentorship program when COVID forced us to stop in-person visits with our patients. As we begin to put down the phones and knock on our patient’s doors, we need mentors to train new volunteers who came in during the pandemic as well as any new people we can recruit.  Online and onsite classes are critical for training people to be patient care volunteers, but shadowing a skilled volunteer like Joan is invaluable. “Even for experienced volunteers, the first time you go into the house for a patient you don’t really know them and they don’t know you,” Joan said.

Meeting a total stranger who is in a stressful and fragile state of body, mind and spirit can be daunting for not only the volunteer, but for the patient and family. With several longtime volunteers stepping up as mentors, first time volunteers will have support and confidence in putting what they have learned in virtual lessons to practical use in the field. Mentors will meet with new volunteers first to talk about their experience and answer any of the mentee’s questions. Then, they can either go together on a visit to a patient assigned to the mentor, or one assigned to the new volunteer.

Online and onsite classes are critical for training people to be patient care volunteers, but shadowing a skilled volunteer like Joan is invaluable.

LaShan Ross is being mentored by Joan, but she is not actually a volunteer. She’s been our volunteer services coordinator in Largo since June. As the Volunteer Team was preparing to go back to in-person volunteering, they discussed the mentorship program. LaShan said, “We were talking about how volunteers are going to need mentors and I said, ‘Well, so will I!’”  She reached out to Blum who was more than happy to take LaShan under her wing.

A headshot of Volunteer Services Coordinator LaShan Ross, who is being mentored by longtime volunteer Joan Blum.

Volunteer Services Coordinator LaShan Ross is being mentored by longtime volunteer Joan Blum.

LaShan has more than 30 years of experience in the medical field, as both a certified medical assistant and a certified ophthalmic assistant. Though she has experience with patients, it is in a medical office setting. Not bedside and certainly not in their homes. She felt shadowing Joan would give her a better idea of what she is assigning volunteers to
do. Plus, as the coordinator responsible for overseeing the caring callers, she has come to admire Joan’s passion and positivity for volunteering. “I want to be just like her when I grow up,” LaShan said.

Whether you are a current volunteer who would like to mentor a new patient care volunteer, a volunteer who would like to be mentored, or someone interested in volunteering with Hospice of the Chesapeake, reach out to volunteers@hospicechesapeake.org.

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