Thursday, April 30, 2009

Volunteers Wanted (Published by the Frontline Focus, the newsletter for the Visiting Nurse Service of New York)

200 hours. A daunting number.

But that number is a reality for teenagers in New York City; many are required to complete up to 200 hours of community service before they graduate from high school.

But VNSNY’s Hospice Care program is here to help those high schoolers as well as anyone else who has an interest in volunteering. The opportunities to participate are vast. Volunteers can perform bedside yoga, provide telephone reassurance, bereavement care, or a variety of other activities for Hospice Care patients.

All of the patients are at the twilight of their life and have less than 6 months to live. The type of care performed for them is palliative care, where nurses and physicians manage symptoms and relieve the pain resulting from an incurable illness.
Although volunteers do not deal with the medical treatments they can provide social support for the patients. Over Winter Break, Presidents Break, Spring Break, and Summer Break high school students can volunteer for Hospice Care at VNSNY’s headquarters. The program they participate in is the Birthday Card Partnership.

The Birthday Card Partnership allows students to craft creative birthday cards for Hospice Care patients. The students also get a holistic sense of terminal illness and bereavement to understand what the recipients of the cards are going through. These sessions can provide a cathartic experience for the students, who often get a better understanding of what some of their elderly relatives are going through.

Janeen Thompson, the Volunteer Coordinator for the Hospice Center, also provides workshops at high schools and middle schools in New York City. Like the sessions at VNSNY’s headquarters, the students make birthday cards for Hospice Care patients and learn about terminal illness. They also receive volunteer credit.

“I know the kids feel skeptical at first,” Janeen says, “but at the end of the hour I can tell they learned a lot. A lot of the students even come up to me and ask about other volunteer opportunities with VNS.”

And Hospice Care needs these volunteers. They make up a significant portion (5%) of their workforce.

If you’re interested in volunteering with Hospice Care you’ll need to attend a training session. Consult the VNSNY website for training session dates. Or you can call Taren Sterry at (212) 609-1908 or Janeen at (718) 888-6967.

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