Carmen Christiansen

Volunteering at the hospital not just about the the gift shop

Manager of volunteers at Campbell River Hospital and Yucalta Lodge says importance of volunteers increases with new hospital on the way

Carmen Christiansen, manager of volunteer resources at Campbell River Hospital and Yucalta Lodge, says she always hears the same sorts of words when she talks to volunteers about their experience.

They are words like “fulfilling,” “positive,” “rewarding,” and phrases like, “I always get back more than I could ever give.”

“Being able to match people up with their passions and with ‘feel-good’ work is extremely rewarding,” Christiansen says.

And she’s hoping to do more of that.

Christiansen is looking for more volunteers to help out in the lead-up to the opening of the new hospital.

“Some of the patients in the hospital and the residents of Yucalta Lodge greatly benefit from the companionship of a volunteer,” Christiansen says. “That could be anything from just visiting with somebody and listening to their stories. It could be walking with someone, either within the hospital or Yucalta Lodge or around the grounds. It could be as simple as reading with people or sitting with someone while they have a meal,” she says, “because increased companionship for residents and patients increases quality of life. I think we can all agree on that.”

And while those traditional volunteer roles are still required, there’s also a new initiative Christiansen is looking to staff with volunteers in the Emergency Department.

“I’m particularly looking for volunteers for those particular roles who are maybe thinking about going into healthcare or are in the healthcare program at North Island College, maybe, or are retired from the healthcare field but still want that connection to the hospital,” Christiansen says.

Those volunteers, she says, will do things like provide support for patients or help occupy children while their parents or caregivers are in for treatment.

Even if it’s just to give them some toys to play with or read them a story, Christiansen says, “that kind of help can be huge for people who have to come to emergency but maybe have had to bring their kids along.”

There are also roles available for helping people find their way around, which will become all the more important once the transition takes place to the new hospital, Christiansen says.

“It’s a brand new building, it’s state of the art, and people are going to walk in and, well, it’s not going to be the same,” she says.

I need to make sure that I have two or even three of those people on for every shift, because I want to be able to provide a level of service where when someone comes into the new hospital, there’s a volunteer who can say, ‘let me walk you down to where you’re going.’”

And prospective volunteers shouldn’t be concerned they will be put in a role that aren’t comfortable with, Christiansen says, because that would defeat the whole purpose.

“There are a huge variety of different assignments that people can do either at Yucalta Lodge or at the hospital,” Christiansen says. “So after they’ve filled out their application, I contact them up and schedule an interview with me, where we discuss what their interests are, what their personal goals are in terms of volunteering, and then I can determine the best fit for them,” she says.

After all, there’s no point in putting people in roles that don’t suit them.

“The best volunteer situation is one where the volunteer feels they are making a positive contribution, and it’s a successful situation for both the volunteer and for the patients or residents they are supporting.”

Christiansen says that not only is volunteering extremely rewarding, but it also allows for people to build skills, such as communication skills, both as in-person training sessions and an online training education system accessible to volunteers.

“That aspect is especially great for students or people who are thinking about getting into healthcare,” she says, “to help them gain valuable skills they’ll be able to take with them when they enter the workforce down the road.”

And speaking of entering the workforce, Christiansen says, volunteering at the hospital is a great way to get your foot in the door, so to speak.

“I had a volunteer recently email me and say, ‘guess what? I just got hired at the hospital!’” Christiansen says with a smile. “She was in the LPN program at NIC when she was volunteering here, and now she’s working up on one of the floors.”

Those interested in getting involved should head over to viha.ca to start the application process or pick up a form at the hospital or email carmen.christiansen@viha.ca with questions.

They could also simply call her at 250-850-2420 to see how they can be of help.