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The Volunteer Nurse Program started at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis ten years ago, and now Mercy Hospital in Springfield hopes to implement the program. Registered nurse Sally Rundquist came up with the idea for the volunteer nurses when she was working as nurse manager in the orthopedics unit…
"I saw the need for extra hands and eyes to help with the patient care. And I just personally knew that, when I retired, I wanted to be a volunteer nurse."
She got the ball rolling, and the program was implemented in 2002. Right now there are around 40 volunteer nurses.
She says most are retired nurses, but some are people who have been away from the nursing field and want to get experience before they re-enter the profession.
According to Rundquist, the program attracts nurses who love nursing and want to make a difference…
"I think the greatest benefit is, and the thing that the nurses talk the most about, is it provides them the opportunity to deliver one to one care and to do it in a time frame that is comfortable and meaningful for them."
Unlike paid staff, volunteers aren’t assigned patients. They can spend as much time as they’d like with any one patient…
"It's just the quality of expertise that comes to the bedside, which benefits both the patient and the nursing staff."
Volunteer nurses do things like feed patients, pass food trays and provide additional support for patients and families. With extra training they can do things like blood sugars and put in Foley catheters. They must have a Missouri nursing license and attend an orientation. They must also be CPR certified.
Judy Pitlyk has been a volunteer nurse at Mercy Hospital St. Louis for ten years…
"It's been wonderful. I just love it. I work in different departments--that was on of the things. I started out in one and decided I'd work in ICU as a nurse, and it would have been great to have someone who was not assigned patients--just to be there to help, so I've been in ICU for probably five or six years, and it's just great."
She says the hospital staff is grateful for the extra help, and she feels needed.
Rundquist’s goal is to expand the Volunteer Nurse program into all the Mercy hospitals.
To learn more about the Volunteer Nurse program in Springfield, call 820-2171.