“Our volunteers are like family,” said Linda Wolff, President of the Tri-City Hospital Auxiliary. “Many of our volunteers, or someone they know, have been patients at Tri-City Medical Center (TCMC) and they just want to give back. Volunteering gives people a sense of purpose and a chance to make others smile when they come to our hospital.”
“At Tri-City Hospital Auxiliary, our purpose has always been focused on service rather than fundraising,” added Wolff. “Our mission is to render service to Tri-City Medical Center, its patients and staff, and to assist the hospital in promoting the health and wellbeing of the Oceanside, Vista and Carlsbad communities.”
This non-profit organization started in 1958, before the hospital was built in 1961, by a small group of doctors’ wives who lobbied to build a hospital in North County. “Unlike many other auxiliaries that have a paid director of volunteer services, we are overseen by a volunteer Board of Directors and officers,” said Wolff. “We also have more than 15 volunteer department chairs who manage scheduling for almost 200 volunteers in different areas (throughout the Medical Center).”
Before the pandemic, the Auxiliary had more than 500 volunteers between the ages of 15 to 95 years from diverse backgrounds. “We are seeing an increase in the number of people returning and beginning to volunteer again thanks to our outreach efforts and word-of-mouth,” said Wolff. “I think just like we missed our loved ones and friends when everything was shut down, our volunteers missed that connectedness, that sense of family and community that they shared. Volunteering at the hospital is safe and a great way to develop friendships and make our lives more meaningful.”
Wolff says there are many ways to get involved. “Some volunteers are assigned to a department, like surgery, where they might be responsible for stocking shelves, or to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) to cuddle premature babies, which frees up time for the clinical staff to do their jobs. Other opportunities include working as a courtesy shuttle driver, receptionist at the information or registration desks, gift shop cashier or patient escort services guide. There’s something for everyone here! We try to match peoples’ interests, skills and time with our needs. Bilingual volunteers are always a plus.”
To support TCMC’s patient experience efforts, Auxiliary volunteers called Advocates, conduct rounds five days a week visiting patients and communicating their needs – big and small – immediately to staff, so that issues can be resolved quickly. “It could be as simple as the patient needs a pair of reading glasses or wants an activity packet,” said Wolff. “Sometimes a patient just needs someone to talk to, which is why all of our volunteers are trained in how to listen and respond accordingly.”
“Through the Auxiliary, we also bring in volunteers from the local community to provide pet therapy,” said Wolff. For this popular program, trained and certified dog handlers and their dogs visit patients to ease their stress and bring joy during a hospital stay. Research has shown that the positive effects of pet therapy can improve a patient’s recovery process and also reduce anxiety and blood pressure. “When I see the smiles on our employees faces as they greet the dogs by name, I know they enjoy these visits just as much as the patients,” added Wolff.
Since 1973, the Auxiliary has also offered a scholarship program to deserving students in North County who are pursuing a career in nursing or medicine. “The Auxiliary has given more than a million dollars in scholarships, thanks to the generous donations of private donors,” said Wolff. “We now offer 60-90 scholarships each year, which represents a $75,000 annual investment in the future of healthcare in our community. Strengthening the communities outside of our hospital walls is as important to the Auxiliary as our internal efforts, including giving an annual gift to the hospital from profits from the Gift Shop.”
Wolff has witnessed this firsthand over the years as her parents volunteered at TCMC for 18 years. After she retired from teaching third grade for 26 years, Wolff decided to continue her family’s legacy. “I grew up watching my parents follow the tenent of ‘we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’ I encourage anyone who might be interested in volunteering to contact us, and help be a force for good.”
Join us in celebrating National Volunteer Week, April 16-22, 2023, and Volunteer Recognition Day on April 20, 2023!