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Hospital Corner: Volunteers enhance the hospital experience

by Riley Polumbus
| April 5, 2023 1:00 AM

Once a week the aroma of freshly baked cookies permeates through the hallways at Logan Health—Whitefish. Volunteer Mark Sanman comes in weekly to bake and deliver cookies to patients, visitors, and staff. The volunteer program was inspired by the hospital’s affiliation with Planetree International and its intent is to make the hospital experience feel more comfortable and home-like. For nearly 15 years Marvin Parker and Barbara Sanders were partners in baking until retiring last year. Last month Mark took over the beloved role.

“It’s one of a few volunteer positions where you truly get to ‘role’ in the dough,” Mark quips.

Mark first began volunteering at Logan Health—Whitefish shortly after he moved here in 2012 along with his wife Carol. They thought it would be a great way to meet other people in the community. Carol, a retired nurse, has always been interested in retail and so volunteering in the hospital gift shop was a perfect fit. Mark comes from a tech background and volunteered in the Information Systems (IS) department. He assisted with projects such as clearing data from retired computers, wiping them clean of hospital information, and then reselling them at an affordable price point through the gift shop.

Although his first assignment played to his vocational skills, he now prefers the cookie baking and distribution because it allows him the opportunity to talk to people and make a more personal connection.

“I can tell you anything you want to know about cyber security, but it’s a much different interaction when you hand someone a warm cookie,” he said.

Another special team of volunteers also create a very personal bond with every person they meet. Each encounter immediately reduces stress and anxiety for all involved. Darby, Shelby, Karra, and Dagny are the current four-legged half of the hospital’s Dog Visit Teams, and deliver a whole different breed of person-centered care.

Yvonne Nanasi and Shelby have been volunteering for five years, and at 11 Shelby is still making the rounds every other week. She’s eager to meet everyone she comes across. Often she and Yvonne encounter more staff than patients, however, the impact is the same.

“They lose themselves in the dog for a few moments and forget they are in a hospital,” Yvonne said.

Lynne Hiatt and Darby are the newest volunteers to join the program, having been doing bimonthly visits since December.

“I really like this small hospital. It is so patient-oriented. They want to give great care and they want to make it pleasant,” Lynne said.

Although dog visits tend to be brief, both Lynne and Yvonne agree they feel like Dagny and Shelby make a difference in each person’s day.

April is National Volunteer Month in the U.S. and is a month dedicated to honoring volunteers in the community as well as encouraging volunteerism. Logan Health—Whitefish welcomes individuals that want to donate their time, share their skills, learn new skills, meet great people, and give to the community. We greatly value our volunteers and offer orientation and training sessions for each position. The time you volunteer can be varied, such as one or two hours a month or a few hours each week. Contact Jeny Covill, Volunteer Coordinator, jcovill@logan.org for more information.

Riley Polumbus writes the monthly Hospital Corner column for the Whitefish Pilot and manages community relations for Logan Health – Whitefish at rpolumbus@logan.org.

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