While Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital has long embraced the Caring Tradition, the greater Charlottesville community and beyond also has shown enduring, heartfelt compassion for patients and their families through their generous support of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation. Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, the hospital and foundation have pressed forward with the creation of two beautiful new spaces within the hospital: the Haney Volunteer Center and the Caregiver Center.
The Haney Volunteer Center Welcomes Volunteers Back
As a longtime volunteer at the Phillips Cancer Center, Helen Landel has spent many days making sure patients get what they need: a warm blanket, a pillow, a drink or a snack—and, before COVID-19, even a hug. Among team members and patients, however, Landel is known best as “the Cookie Lady.” Every Thursday, she brings in about eight dozen homemade cookies to share.
“It's a free-for-all,” says Landel, who has volunteered at the hospital for 48 years. “I hear people say, ‘the Cookie Lady is here,’ and I put out tins with different types of cookies. Some take more than one, wrapping them in a napkin to take with them.”
Volunteers like Landel are vital to the hospital’s work, even though several volunteer programs have been paused temporarily out of safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. As they return, the new Haney Volunteer Center is ready to provide these dedicated people with a welcoming and well-equipped home base. In 2019, more than 400 volunteers contributed in excess of 53,000 service hours across more than 70 departments.
“Our volunteers are so important to the core operations of the hospital, and we value all they contribute to the enhancement of services and care, the patient and visitor experience, and their unique personal warmth and compassion,” says Renee Dinwiddie, manager for volunteer and guest services. “Having a prominent space for our volunteers speaks volumes about how the hospital values them and their contributions.”
The Haney Volunteer Center, named in memory of Melton T. and A. Muriel Haney, is prominently located in the main lobby. With four computer workstations and a large work surface, the center provides space for the hospital’s volunteers to gather, have computer access, and complete continuing education and training.
“It is truly a work hub,” Dinwiddie says. “Our volunteers are essential, and we have missed them during the pandemic. They enhance our operations and our customer service by contributing to the hospital’s long-standing Caring Tradition culture.”
Concierge volunteers like John Roberson and Andy Anderson, who team up at the Phillips Cancer Center on Fridays, greet patients and families, answer their questions, provide information, give directions and offer more services as needed. In some cases, they also may escort patients to their appointments.
“In the Cancer Center, we see many of the same people who come in regularly for treatment, and we form connections with them,” Anderson says. “I’ve met some really nice people doing this work. It’s an enjoyable and meaningful experience.”
At 92, Nancy Maine has been a hospital volunteer for more than 60 years. These days, she also covers the front desk at the Cancer Center and loves greeting people as they come in for treatments.
“I enjoy interacting with other people, and it’s a joy working with the patients who come to the Cancer Center,” she says. “Sentara Martha Jefferson is a caring community, and I really enjoy my hospital family.”
Celebrating the Opening of the Caregiver Center
When patients are hospitalized, recovering, or learning to live with a chronic disease, there is often a caregiver by their side. Caregivers are most often our spouses, parents, children, siblings, and friends. While the medical staff’s primary focus is rightly on the patient, we cannot underestimate or ignore the physical and emotional needs of family caregivers as they grapple with the life-altering effects of a loved one’s illness or injury.
To support the needs of caregivers and improve outcomes for patients, Sentara Martha Jefferson has built a new Caregiver Center, which opened this summer. Providing a lifeline of emotional support, assistance and connection with resources for caregivers, the Caregiver Center is a program fully funded with philanthropic support through the Martha Jefferson Hospital Foundation. This free hospital program offers help from trained staff and volunteers in supporting the needs of caregivers in a compassionate and nonjudgmental way.
“This is a very special place for the caregivers of our community. This Center provides a dedicated space where they can come for support for themselves, to receive support and have a place to recharge,” says Katy Kreienbaum, Caregiver Center Program Coordinator.
The new Caregiver Center allows Sentara Martha Jefferson to extend holistic care to family members, as well as professional medical caregivers who are welcome to stop in for a time of meditation and respite. Centrally located between the Phillips Cancer Center and Gift Shop, yet far enough removed to provide a quiet place to rest, the Center has a relaxing reception area featuring a stone fireplace and expansive windows that let in abundant natural light. The space also includes a business hub with a computer and phone charging station, a private meeting room with a tranquil water element ideal for relaxation and meditation, and a second private room for completely alone time.
The first of its kind within the Sentara system, the Center is another example of how our community’s philanthropic support makes possible an unmatched margin of excellence here at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.
“While our number one priority is taking great care of the patients, often right beside that patient is a caregiver who is under tremendous stress,” Kreienbaum says. “Anyone who has been a caregiver can appreciate that reality. Our goal is to provide a safe haven for caregivers to take time to “fill their own cup” so they can return to their loved one with a boost to their own resiliency.”