UNMH Volunteers Make A World of Difference

It takes many people to keep a large, busy hospital like UNM Hospital running smoothly. In addition to the hundreds of physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, technical, and administrative staff, there’s another group of hardworking, dedicated people that can be seen in the hospital every single day-volunteers

UNMH has more than 800 volunteers come through their system every year, with an average of 300 active at any given time and about 162 active in any given week. “From March 2007 to March 2008, our volunteers contributed more than 37,000 hours,” says Barbara Temer, Assistant Director for Volunteer Services/Information Desk. According to Temer, those same volunteers have racked up more than 200,000 hours during their tenure as volunteers. This, she says, equates to about $3 million in service.

Currently, UNMH volunteers range in age from 14 to 91 years and volunteer in various roles throughout the hospital. Volunteers called “Cuddlers” rock the babies in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit, while others help out in the Children’s Hospital Child Life program. “Some of our volunteers make homemade baby blankets, quilts, hats, booties, pillows, and teddy bears for our pediatric patients,” says Temer.

One of the more high profile volunteer services offered at UNMH is the HaHaHa cart - an acronym for Hospitals and Humor are Healthy Allies. The cart uses humor and the human touch to help brighten the day of adult patients. “The cart is filled with magazines, back scratchers, playing cards, and other fun gifts,” explains Temer. “The volunteers who run this cart dress in fun attire and deliver the goodies to patients.” Volunteers can also be found in the emergency room, gift shop, the Basic Advanced Trauma Computer-Assisted Virtual Experience (BATCAVE), and Ronald McDonald Room. “They help stock shelves, enter data, play with kids, file, and give lots and lots of warm smiles.”

Temer says volunteers come from all walks of life and make the decision to volunteer for different reasons. “Some of our volunteers want to give back to the hospital that gave to them. Others have extra time and want to make a difference in someone’s life,” she says. Teenager Michael Lott, who volunteers in the BATCAVE, does it in order to gain experience that will help him choose a career path. Students who are interested in this experience can apply for the summer teen program which begins in June.

Bernice Young decided to volunteer in order to become involved in the community and meet people after moving to Albuquerque from St. Louis in 1991. With about 12,000 hours of volunteer credit at UNMH, Young says she has gained so much more than she ever expected. “I have received so much more than I have been able to give,” she says. “Being able to help people is so worthwhile. It is really a remarkable experience.”

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