FORT ATKINSON – As members of the Fort HealthCare Partners organization, Fort Memorial Hospital volunteers are an invaluable resource to the community. Several important roles fulfilled by volunteers add a tremendous amount of value to Fort HealthCare’s services and directly influence positive patient and guest experiences. During National Volunteer Week, April 19-25, 2020, Fort HealthCare reflects on the tremendous service that hospital volunteers have been providing for the past 69 years and counting.
The Fort Atkinson Memorial Health Services Auxiliary was organized in 1951 through the sponsorship of the American Legion Auxiliary, with 250 charter members. In 2003, the Auxiliary changed its name to Partners.
The Gift Shop opened in 1952 and a small Coffee Shop was added in 1959. In 1978, new facilities were built for the Gift Shop and Coffee Shop so they could function as two separate shops.
The Partners have sponsored a Scholarship program every year since 1953. Each year in the 1950s through the 1970s, two or three $500 scholarships were awarded to students going into the nursing field. Today, Partners gives $10,000 in scholarship awards to students who are pursuing or advancing their career in most any health care field.
In the 1980s and 1990s, volunteers served families while waiting for their loved ones to come out of surgery by providing reassurance, refreshments and acting as a liaison between hospital staff and family members. In 1998, the waiting room service expanded to the Emergency Room waiting area to assist during evening and weekend times. This opened up new opportunities for people who were interested in volunteering but were unable to because they had full time jobs elsewhere.
In 1972, the Patient Escort service brought a completely new aspect to volunteering at the hospital. This position provided an opportunity for men to have an active role with the Auxiliary, which was only made up of women at that time. There were about 30 male volunteers at the start of this program. Fondly called the “Redcoats,” men have been and continue to be a tremendous asset to the hospital Volunteer Program. Today, both men and woman serve as Patient Escorts.
The Tele-Care daily phone call program started in 1973 to help older people who lived alone. This took place seven days a week with the high school “Candy Stripers” assisting on the weekends. Today, subscribers to the program are called Monday through Friday during the hours of approximately 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. Over the years, the number of subscribers has been as high as 50 people. Today’s technology has decreased the number of subscribers, but the service is still available. Volunteer callers often form strong bonds of friendship with subscribers during these daily calls.
With the ever-growing concern for older people living alone, the Partners started another service to help. In 1984, the CareLine Medical Alarm Service was started (formerly called LifeLine). At the one-year anniversary of this program, they had 23 subscribers using the service. Over the years, the equipment has gotten smaller, and now provides advanced technology such as GPS and fall detection. The program has also gotten bigger, now serving approximately 250 people who have the CareLine system.
In 1975, the Partners started a wonderful service for children with the School Tours Program to help relieve the fears that kids have about hospitals. Children could visit and tour hospital departments including Admitting, Radiology, Emergency Services, the cast room, Laboratory, Physical Therapy, and Pediatrics.
During the 1999-2000 school year, 31 classes with a total of 600 students came to the hospital for tours. Staff from each hospital department spent time with the children to explain what goes on in their respective areas. Children left the hospital excited about all that they have learned and knowing that the hospital really is not such a scary place. Today’s School Tours Program still focuses on what children might experience as a patient, but tours now include sessions about nutrition, exercise, and jobs in health care.
The Love Light Tree was started in 1985. It is heart-felt way to acknowledge loved ones who are still living or those who have passed away. By charging a small fee of $2 per light, the Love Light Tree has been raising money to purchase new equipment, education, and services for the hospital. A few of the items that Love Lights has funded are fetal monitors, heart monitors, breathing monitors, birthing beds, hearing screeners, exercise equipment, recliners for patient rooms, and the paramedic intercept vehicle. In addition to all of the hours of service, Partners has donated well over one million dollars to the hospital since 1951.
In 2001, Partners celebrated 50 years of serving Fort HealthCare. At that time, approximately 180 active members were scheduled for regular services out of a total membership of 242. Volunteers contributed 1,358 hours of service in 1952 and that number has increased up to 22,228 hours of volunteer service as recent as 2018.
The number and types of services has expanded and changed since the beginning. In the early years, women sewed and mended patient gowns for the hospital, worked on the switchboard, began a cart service for selling magazines, soda, and candy to patients, and started the Gift Shop. Today, Fort Memorial Hospital’s Hospitality Cart Service is free and serves healthy beverages and snacks, puzzle books, sleep aids and reading materials.
Current Volunteer Service areas include:
- Chart assembly
- Attending to the Coffee Shop
- Emergency Room volunteers
- Giving First Grade Tours
- Working in the Gift Shop
- Helping with the CareLine Medical Alarm Program
- Organizing and participating in the Love Light Tree and other fundraisers
- Fulfilling the role of Patient Escort, helping guests and patients find their way and move around the hospital
- Delivering the mail and supplies
- Helping with the Tele-Care Daily Phone Call Program
- Wheelchair cleaning and maintenance
- Hospitality Cart
- Ambassador Greeter Service
- Visiting and helping patients of our Center for Joint Replacement
- Providing Pet Therapy
- Ambulatory Services Department volunteers
- Needlework volunteers
Fort HealthCare Volunteer Services Manager, Kari Behling, states, “Whether you have been a patient or a visitor at Fort HealthCare, you likely have at some point probably come in contact with one of our hospital volunteers. Our volunteers are always wearing a smile and offer kind words for our guests here. We truly would be at a loss without them.”
When current social distancing guidelines are lifted, feel free to call or stop by the Volunteer Services Office at Fort Memorial Hospital for information on how to begin enjoying the benefits of volunteering. The hospital is located at 611 Sherman Avenue East in Fort Atkinson. Call 920-568-5276 or toll free at 1-800-421-4677 ext. 5276, or visit click here to learn more.