By Amanda Paul, volunteer correspondent
Danielle Vucenovic is giving her time as a GRH volunteer to support patients and gain experience in the health sector
Danielle is a third-year student at the University of Waterloo. She is currently studying health sciences and has been a HELP (Hospital Elder Life Program) volunteer at GRH for two years. HELP connects volunteers with patients. Together, they talk, play games, and do exercises that support a faster recovery.
When Danielle is not spending her time volunteering at GRH or doing school work, she works on other volunteer projects throughout the Waterloo community. Some of her prior volunteer work includes being an active volunteer at the University of Waterloo, running an annual Halloween food drive, volunteering at daycare and writing posts for her healthcare blog.
With having so many volunteer positions under her belt, Danielle brings understanding, care, and experience with her when she is interacting with patients at GRH.
How did you get started with GRH?
I saw a poster at my school and then went to the information night and what I heard really piqued my interest in volunteering. Originally, I started volunteering because I wanted to see what a hospital setting was like and get a better understanding of how to interact with patients. This seemed right for me.
How would you describe the HELP program to another volunteer?
I would describe the HELP program as a social aid for older patients who are staying in the hospital for extended periods of time.
Loved ones aren’t able to visit all the time and having someone to talk to is very important with the social healing process. Having someone to talk to for support and laughter makes a big difference with patients to achieve full functioning – which is one of the goals of the program.
We as the volunteers are there to have a social visit with the patients as well as help patients in certain areas in order to get them back to their best.
What is the most challenging part about being a HELP volunteer?
The most challenging part would be connecting with a diverse group of patients. Patients’ personalities are so varied so being able to connect with all of them can sometimes be difficult. I also think that’s what makes this program and position so rewarding: you get to really connect with so many people.
What would you say is one of the best parts about the HELP program?
With being a HELP volunteer, you are sort of a middle-man with the healthcare system and a patient’s recovery process. You are someone who patients can open up to and speak with comfortably about their thoughts and feelings. Also, a big part of this position is being an emotional support for the patients and that is very rewarding in itself.
What would you recommend to other volunteers?
I would recommend being open minded towards everyone that you meet especially the patients.
When I train new HELP volunteers, I tell them not to give up on the patients. Sometimes patients will not understand entirely why the volunteer is there in the first place but it’s important to know that you’re there for them.
As a volunteer, you’re not just there to write something down on a piece of paper. You’re there to actually help a patient with their recovery process.
Do you feel like your previous volunteering positions have assisted you with HELP?
I feel like all of the positions that I’ve held required me to be attentive to the needs of others.
Volunteering at a daycare taught me skills that I apply to the HELP program. By working with a diverse group of children, this taught me to be more understanding to the fact that each individual is not the same. I feel that this understanding is useful when interacting with patients and their specific needs.
This is part of the reason why I feel that I’m so successful with the program. At times, there are patients who have trouble articulating their needs and I feel like my past experiences have helped me with older adults within the program.
What do you find is the most rewarding thing with HELP?
Just being there for patients who feel that they may not have anyone. I have met patients who don’t have any loved ones around so being there for that person makes a great impact when it comes to visiting with them. Our time spent with those patients is really appreciated both by the staff and patients themselves.
Interview and photography by Amanda Paul
Amanda Paul is Grand River Hospital's volunteer correspondent. Amanda has volunteered at GRH's Freeport and KW campuses for more than five years. She's passionate about telling the stories of her volunteer colleagues at the hospital.Learn more about Amanda and her role at GRH...