By Barbara Allen, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Mary Ann Stein, director of volunteer services and community outreach at Marlborough Hospital, loves her job, and it shows.
“I like the people aspect, and the feeling that I am making a difference,” said Stein, her voice bright with enthusiasm. “I love the variety of volunteers – all the different ages and abilities. Our youngest volunteer is 14, our oldest just turned 93.”
Stein has been director of volunteer services for six years; three years ago, community outreach was incorporated into the position. She feels the outreach piece was a natural fit.
“It’s something that is easy for me to do, as I’m out in the community already,” she explained.
She laughed when she mentioned that her community visibility, however, sometimes means that she is never “off-duty.”
“But when you love what you do, that doesn’t matter,” Stein insisted.
“Mary Ann is a true asset to the hospital and to the community,” said Ellen Carlucci, vice president of marketing, communications and development at Marlborough Hospital. She also oversees the Volunteer Services Department.
“Her enthusiasm sets the tone for the organization, and that enthusiasm spreads to the volunteers; it’s contagious,” she said.
Stein’s hard work, adds Carlucci, “has brought the volunteer service program at the hospital to a new level.”
During the time in which she has held the position, Stein has developed the Emergency Department Concierge Program and has expanded the Spiritual Care and Student Volunteer programs.
The Emergency Department Concierge Program was initiated, Stein explained, as a way to help improve the hospital emergency care experience.
“Wait times in the ED [Emergency Department] are difficult,” Stein noted. “Why not have a volunteer there to help the families understand the process?”
These volunteers, while maintaining patient confidentiality, offer encouragement and support, a warm blanket, and someone to whom patients can talk about their fears and concerns to reduce patients’ anxiety as they wait to be seen.
“Ten minutes in the ED can feel like hours when you’re waiting,” Carlucci agreed.
The “concierge” part of the name calls to mind a hotel employee whose function is to see to the comfort and well-being of the guests, after which the volunteer position has been modeled.
“Health care is [now] much more about the service experience,” Stein said.
Expanding the Spiritual Care Program has enabled the hospital to better meet the spiritual needs of their patients, as well as addressing their physical problems and concerns.
“We’ve added two clergy [members],” Stein said, adding that the Spiritual Care positions are all volunteer; there are no paid members on staff. The Spiritual Care team, which includes several Eucharistic ministers, are now able to provide support and comfort to hospital patients six days a week.
Stein has also increased the hospital’s volunteer base by expanding the summer student program to include both high school and college students.
“Quite a few [of the student volunteers] are interested in a career in health care,” Carlucci said. “It’s great for them to get exposure and experience to the hospital. It is a valuable program.”
Stein has also worked with the Marlborough Public Schools Post-Grad Program to find training opportunities within the hospital for life skills students, cognitively challenged individuals aged 18 to 22.
“[Mary Ann] makes each and every individual volunteer feel special and appreciated,” Carlucci said. “[That means] they want to stay, and also refer friends and family to volunteer.”
Although Stein has an active list of over 150 volunteers who donate over 20,000 hours annually, she has seen a change in the overall nature of volunteering, a change which makes maintaining a strong volunteer base a continuing challenge.
Previous volunteers, Stein noted, were mostly retired individuals with a long-term commitment to their unpaid positions. In recent years, volunteers more often seem to be in school, between jobs or looking to learn a new skill, and are interested in a shorter commitment.
“For every 40-hour shift that used to be typically filled by one person, I may now have 10 people [in the same job],” Stein explained.
Currently, the areas of greatest need at Marlborough Hospital are the Emergency Department, patient transport within the hospital, the front desk and the gift shop.
“Volunteers are giving us their time,” Stein said. “We’re grateful for whatever they can do.”