On trips to H-E-B, Wanda Morris often ran into Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Marble Falls staff, who had one question for the volunteer.
“They’d ask, ‘When are y’all coming back?’” she said. “And that meant so much because I think it showed they appreciated what we did and that we were needed.”
Morris is one of many volunteers at the medical center who had been on a long hiatus since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 when the healthcare system restricted access to its facilities to stop the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. That break ended earlier this year after the Marble Falls hospital became a state vaccination hub. Officials reached out to volunteers asking them to help with the vaccine rollout.
Baylor Scott & White celebrated its volunteers during National Volunteer Appreciation Week on April 18-24.
“Volunteers are a valuable resource that enhance patient care and positively impact our Baylor Scott & White healthcare experiences at our medical center in Marble Falls,” said Kimberly Jungkind, manager of Comprehensive Care Management, Volunteers & Good Friends. “We appreciate our volunteers who contribute and give back to our community through their efforts in many areas of the hospital and clinic.”
Kaleb Anderson became a volunteer during the vaccine rollout. He went into it not knowing what to expect and immediately made a difference, even if it was just telling people where they needed to go for a vaccination or helping them register for an appointment.
“If you’re not used to (the medical center), it can get confusing, especially when you’re coming for your vaccine,” he said. “I’d direct them where they needed to go. It might not sound like much, but to someone who may not know where they are and where they needed to be, I think it was a big help.”
Volunteers play a vital role at hospitals. They provide support to patients, families, visitors, and even staff so they can focus on their jobs.
Carol Leighton began volunteering at the Marble Falls medical center about two years ago. She started at the front desk, helping people feel at ease as soon as they came in and answering questions.
“People, I think, they want to see a smiling face. It helps them just feel a little better,” Leighton said.
Morris agreed that front desk volunteers set the tone for a person’s visit to the medical center. Before the pandemic forced Baylor Scott & White Health to limit access to its facilities, she also worked the front desk, particularly Thursdays, when the mobile PET scanner came to the hospital.
“These patients (coming for a PET scan) are already nervous about getting one. You have a lot people who this was their first time,” she said. “I just wanted to give them a smile, help them any way I could.”
Staff are also thankful for their presence.
“I don’t think I ever had a day where one or more of the staff members didn’t say, ‘We appreciate you,’” Leighton said.
During the pandemic hiatus, Morris and Leighton missed volunteering at the Marble Falls medical center but still felt connected to it. Morris pointed to volunteer manager Jungkind as the reason.
“Kim did a wonderful job of letting us know what was going on about volunteering and was great about communicating with us,” Morris said. “They wanted to keep us in the loop.”
When the Texas Department of State Health Services designated Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Marble Falls as a COVID-19 vaccination hub with dependable allotments of the Pfizer vaccine, officials enlisted the veteran volunteers as well as new ones to help inoculate the community.
Leighton said it is amazing to be part of something that could potentially save people’s lives and maybe end the craziness of the past year.
Anderson, who is also helping with the vaccine rollout, said volunteering has opened his eyes.
“While volunteering, I realized how many vulnerable people we were getting vaccinated, and I could see the weight that was lifted after they got the vaccine,” he said. “They had a level of safety they didn’t feel before.
“Everyone you help get vaccinated, in a way, you’re helping save their lives,” he added. “We’re in the moment in history right now, and it’s something we’re going to be talking about the rest of our lives.”
Leighton, Morris, and Anderson are doing their part in curbing a worldwide pandemic, and that’s something to think about, Anderson pointed out.
He has enjoyed his experience at Baylor Scott & White-Marble Falls and is considering giving up his self-employed status to pursue a career with the healthcare provider in communications.
Though they’re proud of their roles in the vaccine rollout, Leighton and Morris are excited about the possibility of returning to “normal” volunteer efforts. Morris said she’s taken on a volunteer spot in the day surgery wing.
“That’s a busy place,” she said, “but I’m looking forward to being a liaison between patients, nurses, doctors, and staff.”
As for why she volunteers, Leighton said it’s just how she was brought up.
“I was raised that this is what you do, you have an obligation to give back,” she said. But it’s more than that. Leighton has found a place where she can make people’s lives better, even if it’s simply a smile for someone walking through the front door. “It’s part of me. I cannot not volunteer and help.”
Morris agreed, with a little self-reflection.
“Volunteering, it forces you to look at yourself and ask, ‘Am I being the best person I can be?’” she said. “That’s what I’m trying to be.”
For volunteering opportunities with Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Marble Falls, visit the volunteer office webpage.