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'Walk a Mile in a Volunteer's Shoes'

October 30, 2019

Colouring book

Central Zone leaders who recently shadowed volunteers to better appreciate their giving include, from left: Allan Sinclair, Lori Sparrow, Lori Anderson, Carolyn Trumper, Sherie Allen and Dr. Daniel Edgcumbe.

Central Zone leaders shadow volunteers to better appreciate their giving

Story by Yolanda Genu | Photo by Heather Kipling

RED DEER — On any given day across Central Zone, dozens of volunteers are giving their time and talents to support Alberta Health Services (AHS) facilities and programs.

Some help patients find their way, while others cuddle babies or drop by for friendly visits with residents. Others staff gift shops, facilitate group sessions and support groups, serve up tea and sweets, support staff or fill hallways with uplifting music.

What they all have in common is the positive impact they have on patients.

To recognize the major contributions of volunteers, senior zone leaders put their gratitude into action earlier this year — by walking the walk alongside volunteers for a firsthand look at the impact they have. Six members of the Central Zone leadership team shadowed volunteers during National Volunteer Week earlier this year.

“Sometimes large corporations forget the personal touch at the top level,” says Sheila Muzychka, a volunteer at Central Alberta Cancer Centre (CACC), who was delighted to see leaders “Walk a Mile in a Volunteer’s Shoes” alongside volunteers in a variety of roles.

Lacombe Hospital and Care Centre volunteer Dawn Atkinson echoes Muzychka’s sentiments, adding it’s reassuring to know volunteers have leaders who are willing to walk the walk.

“Through this experience, they know what a volunteer can do to make a patient’s day,” she says. Atkinson was shadowed by Lori Sparrow, Seniors Health Executive Director at the Lacombe facility, where the pair took part in an interactive drumming class in continuing care and made the rounds with the activity cart in acute care.

Other members of the leadership team also walked alongside volunteers elsewhere in Central Zone.

Zone Medical Director Dr. Daniel Edgcumbe participated in a fun fitness hour session with residents and volunteer Lois Bienvenue at Vegreville Care Centre.
Down the road to the south, Senior Operating Officer Allan Sinclair helped Lena Zweiffle with mealtime assistance in long-term care at the Stettler Hospital and Care.

In Red Deer, Lori Anderson, who participated in “Walk a Mile in a Volunteer’s Shoes” during her tenure as interim Chief Zone Officer, shadowed the Cosmos team at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre (RDRHC) as they collated patient’s chart packs. The team also rounds up wheelchairs and delivers newspapers.

Anderson also spent time with Gerry Fitzgerald, a volunteer at RDRHC’s Diagnostic Imaging, where he organizes linen — one of the many roles he assists with in addition to welcoming patients and helping them prepare for imaging procedures.

“You could see the volunteers’ interactions with patients and their families were appreciated and helped to make a tough situation a little more tolerable,” says Anderson, who served beverages to CACC patients with Muzychka and fellow volunteer Valerie Habke.

“Our volunteers are dedicated, and they make a difference in the lives of those we serve, and we thank them, while also thanking the healthcare professionals and departments who support them.”

In 2018, AHS’ volunteer network comprised 14,485 people from all age groups and walks of life who gave 1,065,632 hours.

Having leadership participate has proven a touching acknowledgement of the efforts of volunteers like Muzychka.

“We had a lot of fun and, most importantly, the patients appreciated the Walk a Mile experience. It was a pleasure and honour to participate,” says Muzychka.

Leaders who took part in the job-shadowing experience agree it’s provided a wonderful opportunity to recognize volunteers who give their time, skills, experience and passion without expecting anything in return.

At Vermilion Health Centre’s volunteer week appreciation tea, Sherie Allen, Senior Operating Officer, North, shared uplifting opening remarks and helped serve residents and volunteers coffee and delicious cake.

“It was humbling to see the empathy and caring that volunteers provide every day,” says Carolyn Trumper, Executive Director, Integrated Quality Management, who visited with residents in continuing care at the Olds Hospital and Care Centre. There she served during a social tea party alongside 97-year-old volunteer and Spirit of Excellence Award recipient Fern Olson.

“I want to express my gratitude for the service and dedication,” adds Trumper, “because we couldn’t do this without them.”