NHRMC begins North Carolina's first volunteers nurse program

September 01, 2005
WILMINGTON - New Hanover Regional Medical Center is the first hospital in North Carolina to augment its nursing staff by establishing a Volunteer Nursing Program after learning about a similar program at St. John's Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

The NHRMC Volunteer Nurse Program brings nurses back to helpful patient care situations and allows them the professional satisfaction of addressing the health care needs of their community as they support the paid nursing staff.

Since April 2005, the number of Volunteer Nurses participating in the program has grown from five to nine. They have volunteered more than 315 hours at a value to the medical center of $5,402. This amount is based on $17.15 per hour, as set by the Points of Light Foundation in partnership with the Volunteer Center National Network.

Volunteer Nurses at NHRMC take on many different roles in caring for patients. They work in the Women's and Children's Services Department by helping out in the nursery and talking with mothers as they await the birth of their babies. They work in the Coastal Heart Center, checking on patients, providing wound care and adjusting IVs. They also work in the Surgical Unit, Zimmer Cancer Center, the intensive care units and the Emergency Department. Regardless of their specific duties, they have the freedom to devote extended amounts of time to one patient, if needed.

Pam Moffett, RN, a Volunteer Nurse in Obstetrics, was an OB nurse for 33 years and retired five years ago. After a while, she missed nursing. While volunteering at NHRMC, she assisted in the planning of the Volunteer Nurse Program.

"It is so natural for me to educate new moms and dads about appropriate care for the mother and baby, to share my experience and knowledge, to go into detail…" said Ms. Moffett.

Both RNs and LPNs volunteering in the program work in the role of Certified Nursing Assistant II, providing supportive patient care under the supervision of staff RNs. Their duties vary by the assigned area, needs of the director of the assigned area and individual preferences of the volunteer.

"Our Volunteer Nurse has an excellent skill set," said Sylvia Heinisch, RN, Ambulatory Surgery Manager, "she's wonderful, and we couldn't do without her."

Staff nurses handle many different patient care situations every day. Their workday also includes paperwork, meetings, charting, interactions with physicians and other clinicians, and interactions with family members.

The NHRMC Volunteer Program Auxiliary sanctioned the Volunteer Nurse Program within the Volunteer Programs Department in March 2005 by agreeing to pay the program coordinator's salary, as well as costs associated with education, training and license renewal for participants.

"The Volunteer Nurses' passion for their work is noticeable," says Gina McKim, program coordinator. "Patients respond positively to the extra attention from a clinician and nurse managers appreciate their help and skills."

NHRMC Volunteer Nurses must have a valid North Carolina nursing license. They may choose the area of the hospital in which they would like to volunteer, as well as the hours they would like to work. They work at least four hours each week.

The application process includes an interview and background check. Participants must complete volunteer orientation and unit-based orientation. They also learn safety and infection control education and take a nurse refresher course with cardiac pulmonary resuscitation re-certification, taught by the NHRMC Nursing Education Department. The medical center welcomes nurses who are retired or temporarily between jobs, as well as dedicated professionals who see a need and want to fill it.

Nurses interested in participating in the NHRMC Volunteer Nurse Program should contact Gina McKim, Coordinator Volunteer Nurse Program, at 910-343-2150.