Daily Point of Light # 1758 Oct 30, 2000

Hackensack University Medical Center has risen to the top of the health care industry in the State of New Jersey and at the root of their organization is the Volunteer Services Department. The 1,600-member department has delivered more than 194,000 hours of service to patients and the community of Bergen County.

According to the Director of Volunteer Services, Angela Altschuler, the Junior Volunteer Program and the Pet Therapy Program are the most recent proof their commitment to innovative advancements in patient care. These services reinforce the charter of Volunteer Services by helping to support the medical staff in the performance of their jobs while giving the Medical Center an air of warmth and friendliness, which in turn promotes faster patient recovery.

The Junior Volunteer Program educates participants in the spirit of a Good Samaritan and also in how a medical center functions. Claudia Boehm is the program coordinator and she ensures that the volunteers learn the language of the hospital, the strict codes of conduct, professionalism and cleanliness demanded of all staff. This program also teaches the priority given to a patient’s individual health and comfort as well as the limitless potential of medical science in the fact of never-ending human need. These volunteers soon become champions of HUMC’s advancements, communicating back to the community the quality and capability that the Hospital embodies.

The Pet Therapy Program is an application of nontraditional volunteer manpower. Research states that children who are hospitalized are often more vulnerable to emotional stress and fear than adults. A service was needed to help quell this stressful event, to refocus – even if only for a few moments – the attention away from the child and their illness onto an object of joy and affection. Thus, the Pet Therapy Program was born. By utilizing registered therapy dogs to visit pediatric patients, the frightening and often traumatic experience of a hospital stay is lessened. The children know that they are able to care for someone else rather than being the one cared for. The 30-minute visits provide a positive and uplifting experience for the pediatric patients. In many cases, the patient benefits with improved morale and a faster recovery. As a result, this program may also be implemented for some adult patients.

HUMC trains volunteers to become skilled members of a world-class medical team. Over time, these individuals become an example to their community and are living proof of the Medical Center’s unique value. The volunteer program has been a shining example of how people do make the difference. Volunteers run errands, provide patient transportation within the hospital, assemble charts, relay messages, perform guest relations tasks, and a plethora of other services. Most importantly, volunteers help deliver personal services to patients in need. On a daily basis, more than two hundred volunteers are on-site providing supplementary and complimentary serviced to the patients at HUMC. “A Bond of Caring” is the motto of the Volunteer Services Department as well as they way they serve each day.