For all her life, Eleanor Whitfield has valued the importance of volunteering. At 90 years old, Eleanor is dedicated to making the lives of patients and visitors a bit easier when arriving to Grand River Hospital.
Since 2009, Eleanor has been volunteering in patient registration and feels strongly about her role. As a visit to the hospital may carry nerves, Eleanor brings comfort and support to many patients.
Why did you start volunteering?
There are two reasons. First, I feel very lucky about receiving the health care that we do in Canada. I’m well aware about the benefits that we get as Ontarians versus other parts of the world. I remember when we had to pay for hospital care. Now, I’m so grateful for the care that we do get. I think it’s important to give back as much as you can. This is my way of saying thank you. Second, when my husband and I retired we did volunteer work at another hospital for 18 years together, twice a week. It’s comfortable for me to be within a hospital setting.
How has your experience as a teacher helped you as a volunteer?
Teaching special education requires patience and understanding. I have to be extremely understanding with many situations. I realized that this role requires the same skills as teaching. You have to be able to answer questions when patients and visitors are coming in. It’s all part of being calm and helpful.
Why is volunteering so important to you?
You’re helping other people. I think it’s a rewarding feeling for me, that I’m able to help other people. Being a retired teacher, I know how I can talk to them and help calm them down.
What has volunteering taught you?
It’s taught me that you have to be gracious and understanding. I learned that you have to be polite and private. Once I leave the hospital, everything that happened during my shift stays there. I know that there’s a privacy act and I respect that. It’s taught me a multitude of things that have made me a better person.
What advice would you give other volunteers?
You have to be dedicated. No matter what else I have going on, I am not available on Thursdays. Thursdays are dedicated for the hospital. You also need to learn your job. Training is essential. I was well trained and I get along with the supervisors. You have to be pleasant and have a smile on your face.