Coping With Emotions

This National Volunteer Week, Visit the UVA Cancer Center

A cup of coffee and a friendly face can do wonders for an anxious patient or caregiver.

Every year in April we celebrate National Volunteer Week, when organizations across the country show appreciation for the volunteers that add value to their mission. At the UVA Cancer Center, we are sure to appreciate our volunteers all year long, though April 15-21, 2018, serves as a time for us to shine a spotlight on the volunteers that are a crucial part of our services to patients, caregivers and the community.

UVA Cancer Center Volunteers

The UVA Cancer Center has a thriving volunteer program, led by Volunteer Coordinator Maureen Oswald. “Our volunteers have several roles throughout our campus,” she says. “But our longest running role at the Cancer Center is our Infusion Center Hospitality Program.”

With 30 active volunteers, the hospitality program provides beverages, pastries, lunches, warm blankets and a friendly face to patients and caregivers. These small acts of kindness can lead to warm conversations in an otherwise clinical setting. “Our volunteers amaze me,” Oswald says. “Some of our volunteers drive 90 miles one way to volunteer at our Infusion Center.”

Beyond the Infusion Center, UVA volunteers also serve in the waiting room, Caregivers Café, Flourish Boutique and even in administration. In all venues, volunteers provide a warm welcome, a feeling of peace and a coffee to visitors and patients.

Benefits of Volunteers

“Our volunteers provide so many benefits to our patients, caregivers and visitors,” Oswald says. Some UVA patients live in more rural areas of the state and travel for hours to come through UVA’s doors. They arrive exhausted, nervous and flustered. Volunteers greet them warmly and help them feel more confident and comfortable. Patients and caregivers have less anxiety and have a better overall experience when they interact with a volunteer, she says.

Caregivers can also find a sense of connection with the volunteers at UVA Cancer Center. “Many of our community volunteers have been touched by cancer in some way,” Oswald says. This fosters an immediate connection and a feeling of empowerment when caregivers can talk to someone who has come out on the other side.

Getting Involved

For people who are looking to volunteer at a cancer center near you, Oswald suggests starting by calling first. “The hospital volunteer coordinator will be able to direct you to needs that cancer patients may have,” she says. If there is not a hospital near you, consider reaching out to the American Cancer Society to see if there are any opportunities in your area.

Once you are ready to volunteer at an organization, find a role that will be a good fit. The volunteer coordinator can take you on a tour to discuss your interests, or you can ask to shadow volunteers in different roles. If you find yourself anxious before volunteering, take a deep breath and stay in good communication with your volunteer coordinator.

This National Volunteer Week, we want to extend genuine thanks to the volunteers that make our patients, caregivers and visitors feel loved and welcomed. To volunteers everywhere, we salute your dedication and service!

As a UVA Cancer Center volunteer, you can make a real, positive impact in someone's life.

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Haley Burress
Haley Burress