HOLYOKE — Holyoke Hospital’s highly acclaimed Patient Representative Program recently celebrated its 25th anniversary of service.
The volunteer program, founded in 1976 by former president Harold Pine, his assistant, John Hayward, and program coordinator Myrtle Gold, was created with the goal of enhancing patients’ hospital stays.
Volunteers visit inpatients and outpatients twice a week and endeavor to make those they visit more comfortable.
“Any visit to the hospital is a departure from a person’s daily living routine, and that can cause anxiety,” said patient representative Al Webb, who is a retired optometrist. “The program gives them the opportunity to speak freely, without fear of crossing any lines.”
Hospital President Hank Porten recently cited the Patient Representative Program as one of the main reasons why the hospital has seen so few patient complaints.
Gold agrees. “We’re one of the very few places that has a completely volunteer-run program,” she said. “I think we’re making a real contribution to the patients’ well-being.”
All 12 of the patient representatives — seven men and five women — are retired and complete extensive training before beginning their rounds.
Every patient visit is confidential, and patient complaints, as well as compliments, are shared anonymously with hospital administration and department heads at monthly meetings.
Hospital Director of Volunteers Deborah Long-Smith said the patient representatives are a valuable resource in the hospital.
“They are an extra set of eyes and ears,” she explained. “They may see a trend that’s happening and bring it to the attention of management before it becomes a real problem.”
She said the program will continue to evolve to meet ever-changing hospital and patient needs. Recent changes include the addition of Oncology Department patients and the preparation of a “visual help tool” in Spanish and English that will facilitate communication with Spanish-speaking patients.
New volunteers are always needed in the program, said Long-Smith, and anyone interested should contact her at (413) 534-2568.