It was 25 years ago that Shirley and Dean Hobson first started volunteering as Patient and Family Volunteers. That’s before SCCA, when transplant patients at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center were being treated up at Swedish. The Hobson’s interest in volunteering was piqued when they saw an article in the Seattle Times about the Hutch’s need for volunteers. “We had moved a lot in our marriage and I know what it is like to move and not know anyone in the new location,” Shirley said. “I thought it must be more difficult if you were ill and in the same situation—losing your support system.”
SCCA patients who are in need of social and emotional support can request to have a Patient and Family Volunteer assigned to them. The support that these volunteers provide can include anything from helping patients get groceries, showing them around Seattle, or just being there for conversation and companionship.
Shirley and Dean also volunteer on Thursday afternoons in the SCCA clinic at the Guest Services Desk, which they refer to as the “fun place at SCCA.” Patients often stop by to receive passes to Seattle attractions, get more information about upcoming events, or just grab a piece of candy.
Shirley and Dean have had their share of fond memories with patients. One in particular happened several years ago and reminds them of the joy that volunteers can bring to patients and their families. “It was Thanksgiving and [the patient] had just entered the hospital to prepare for his transplant,” Shirley explained. “We told him that his brother, the donor, was going to join us for dinner and we would be thinking of him. On Thanksgiving Day, he checked himself out of the hospital and joined us.”
While SCCA is not currently recruiting for Patient and Family Volunteers, there are a variety of other volunteer positions that put our volunteers in contact with patients such as roles in Guest Services, Airport Transportation, and positions in the SCCA gift shops.
Regardless of the role, Shirley and Dean’s advice for new volunteers on how to connect with patients and improve their experience at SCCA is simple. “Keep a sense of humor and be flexible with your time and expectations.”
For more information about this program and SCCA Volunteer Services, visit the volunteer section of the SCCA website, contact the Volunteer Services department directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (206) 288-1073.