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Volunteers save Iredell Health System Large Sum in 2018

Friday, March 22, 2019

Five years ago, Brian Sutton underwent radiation therapy at Iredell Memorial Hospital.

“I went in knowing it would be a pretty scary process to go through,” he said.

After completing the treatment, Sutton’s experience meant even more to him than its successful outcome.

“What impressed me about the hospital was not just the quality of the treatment, but the compassionate care rendered to me by the staff – the clerical staff, doctors, radiologists, and technicians.”

Sutton felt inspired to begin volunteering, and is now president of the Iredell Health System Volunteers. The group is welcoming newcomers.

“There is a great need for volunteers, and we can never have enough of them,” Sutton said.

Volunteers serve throughout the Health System – including at Iredell Memorial’s front desk, Same Day Surgery, Emergency Department, Radiation Therapy, and Women’s Health Center. They guide patients and visitors to where they need to go. They prepare beds for patients, file medical records, assist incapacitated patients needing transportation from one part of the hospital to another, and serve in many other ways.

Augmenting Iredell Health System’s 2018 budget, volunteers saved the Health System a quarter of a million dollars in labor costs.

The Health System is open to flexible scheduling with its volunteers. Some serve an hour a week, while others serve 20.

“Whatever their lifestyle affords them the opportunity to volunteer, we’ll welcome that,” Sutton said.

Prospective volunteers can indicate preferences or interests they have in specific areas. A scheduler then tries to accommodate the interests of volunteers before ultimately making assignments based on need.

Before nurses Mary Mallory and Karen Hiott retired in January after working at Iredell Memorial Hospital for 35 and 43 years respectively, they both volunteered at the hospital.

Health System volunteers complete the same orientation as employees, and Sutton is working with Iredell Health System’s Director of Patient Experience, Jed Pidcock, to develop a volunteer training program to address issues specific to volunteers.

Volunteers and patients are often more likely to engage in conversation.

“Patients tend to be more open talking to someone not wearing a white coat,” Sutton said.

Patients appreciate conversations with volunteers in which they’re able to ask questions. Sometimes after a patient completes their treatment, a volunteer will receive a note or phone call from the patient or their spouse describing how much the conversation meant to them.

“No patient goes to the hospital because it’s the most fun thing to do,” Sutton said. “So, if a volunteer can just lighten that burden the slightest bit, maybe bring a smile or relax the patient somewhat, that’s a big deal. It’s a relationship that eases people’s minds. You can’t put a tag on that kind of relationship.”

Those interested in volunteering can gain information on Iredell Health System’s website or by calling its Volunteer Office at 704-878-4524.

Pictured: Brian Sutton, Iredell Health System Volunteers President