Walking in Another Caregiver's Shoes

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Helping Hands caregivers gain a different perspective by trying new roles

UH Clinical Update | December 2021

Maybe they order the blood for the hospital but never see it actually transfused into patients. Or they train caregivers on clinical software but haven’t witnessed the work at the bedside. They are accountants, computer systems trainers, schedulers, purchasing agents and nurses no longer at the bedside. And they are caregivers, too, volunteering to work as Helping Hands across the University Hospitals health system.

Erin Heron, a RN navigator at UH Seidman Cancer Center on main campus, performs her Helping Hands shifts at UH Parma Medical Center. Sometimes she starts IVs and restocks supplies, other times she has had her own patient load.

“This experience has renewed my enthusiasm about being a caregiver within the UH system,” Erin said. “I would especially like to encourage anyone who has considered joining Helping Hands but has been hesitant for whatever reason to reconsider and feel comfortable with the knowledge that you are helping others, and working with a team of people who are grateful for your help and will only ask you to do what you feel comfortable with.”

Some relished the opportunity to gain new insight that might inform their regular jobs. Donna Bailey, who works in the Emergency Department at main campus, is helping in various areas of UH Cleveland Medical Center for different perspectives. Myrna Branche in Supply Chain now has a fresh view on her own job.

“By working on and walking through the floors, it really drives home the need for items and services which I procure for departments in my capacity as a Purchasing Agent,” says Myrna. “Helping Hands is truly a family within the UH family. I find this to be a very mentally and spiritually rewarding experience. Plus, I get my fitness steps in!”

Virginia Watts of Specialty Pharmacy also was happy to get her steps logged as a lab courier for UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital. Through the miles she covers on main campus, she sees the need for help everywhere.

Working remotely but not removed from caring

Forced to shift to a remote work setting at the beginning of the pandemic, Systems Trainer Rae Boyd and Virtualization Engineer Jerry Sedlecky felt a little guilty knowing their colleagues across the system were burdened by exceptionally heavy patient loads.

“After working from home for almost a year before they started asking for volunteers for Helping Hands, I felt like I needed to do something to help those who did not have the luxury of working from home,” said Jerry, who now works a day or two a week at UH St. John Medical Center in the ICU, CCU and PACU, answering phones, transporting patients and running errands. 

Rae, who has been with University Hospitals for 22 years, has performed Helping Hands at UH Portage and UH Ahuja medical centers, as well as the vaccine clinic at the Management Services Center. Every “thank you” from patients and staff reassures her she is valued.

“Helping Hands is a great opportunity for anyone to explore the different entities and even open your mind to possibly doing something different in your career,” says Rae.

The benefit of intangible rewards

Helping Hands are paid their usual rate to work beyond their regular hours, and RNs no longer in direct patient care have been asked to give 20 percent of their time back at the bedside.

Marcia Brown, a division secretary and a 33-year member of the UH family who runs labs for Helping Hands, is pleased that she can do good while also earning a little extra money toward fixing up the home she recently purchased. Accountant Deb Franklin, initially motivated by the financial benefit, found the intangible rewards she’s reaped from helping at UH Elyria and St. John medical centers – busier now than in the first wave of the pandemic – far outweigh the pay.

Seeing how caregivers must suit up to enter rooms of infectious patients, and can’t quickly doff their protective gear to run to another patient’s room, she understands why they’re so pressed for help. If changing beds, collecting meal trays and answering call lights can assist caregivers, she’s happy to help a few shifts each month.

“I had an appreciation for the clinical staff, but that has grown 100 times!” Deb says. “They work very, very hard.”

Closer to home

Many people appreciate the chance to pick up hours closer to home on their days or weekends off. Donna Ebert, Technical Coordinator of the Blood Bank at UH Parma, goes to UH Elyria for a chance to see what takes place on the nursing floors. Karla Washington in Environmental Services, born at UH and working here for the past eight years, found delivering blood work for testing was “the best feeling I had in a long time, because I know how important the blood is.”

Dawn Jolley, who works in the Customer Service Center in Highland Hills, frequently picks up shifts as a sitter and secretary at UH Elyria when the CSC is closed.

“I’ve learned so much through this Helping Hands program that I’m considering going back to school to become either a Medical Assistant or even an LPN,” Dawn says. “This is such a wonderful program that the hospital has started, and as long as it continues to run, I will continue to work and help out where I am needed.”

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