Now more than ever, we rely on hospitals to provide quality healthcare to the communities they serve. From general practice to emergency surgery, the doctors and nurses in hospital systems offer patients everything they need to get healthy and stay healthy. To continue doing their best work, though, they need their communities to give back. How can you lend a hand? Here are 13 ways to help out your local hospital.
Bring a canine visitor
Friendly, social dogs can become approved visitors for hospital patients. Many facilities allow regular pets, not just certified therapy dogs, to come and sit with sick patients. Research suggests that this “animal therapy” speeds along the healing process. It can lift their spirits and giving them something soothing to look forward to during their recovery process.
Donate to the annual fund
Most hospitals have set up a foundation that accepts donations from local citizens and corporate sponsors. These organizations fund hospital expansions, life-saving research and the purchase of technological innovations that improve patient care. You can give a one-time gift or set up a monthly or yearly draw that is always tax deductible.
Assist in the hospital’s chapel
It’s not just hospitals with religious affiliations that offer chapels for visitors to seek spiritual comfort. You can find a small non-denominational chapel, along with a chaplain, in almost every hospital you enter. With so many patients and visitors to care for, chaplains can always use assistance. Volunteers are often able to become chaplain’s aides. If qualified, they can potentially take part in services, too.
Tutor long-term patients
Whether they are school kids or college-aged, many patients with chronic illnesses at your local hospital have studies they need to keep up with. If you’re well-versed in basic subjects, like math, science, social studies and language arts, you can help keep them on track. Some larger youth wings and children’s hospitals even have dedicated classrooms to ensure their students don’t fall behind. Inquire with volunteer programs to see if they’re looking for teacher’s assistants, tutors, homework helpers or study buddies.
Try your hand at retail
Did you know most hospital gift shops are staffed by volunteers? It’s true! They help new parents purchase newborn-sized onesies, visitors pick up flower arrangements as well as offer snacks and incidentals to patients. A volunteer-run shop is a great place for retirees to make a difference and for youth to get their feet wet both in community service and professional environments.
Run a fundraiser
You can literally run a marathon, a 10k or a triathlon and accept sponsored donations to the hospital. Or, you could throw a fundraiser of your own: a dinner party, a dance-a-thon, a clean-up, a bar-hop, a gift-wrapping service. There are scores of fundraising ideas you can try that will do double-duty for your community–fun for you and funds for your favorite hospital or healthcare system.
Go to hospital-sponsored events
Not interested in running your own fundraiser? No worries! Hospitals throw plenty of local events of their own. On their events calendar, you’ll likely find options ranging from the typical gala or benefit dinner to movie nights, dance lessons and cooking demonstrations. Why not make it a tradition among your social circle to patronize these events?
Take care of the caregivers
Registered nurses in hospital settings tend to work 12-hour shifts. That’s a long time to be on any job! While nurses are dedicated to the important work they do, sometimes those shifts can be difficult and thankless. Show the team of RNs how much you appreciate their round-the-clock care by bringing them meals, snacks and treats. Before you get to work, get in touch with the hospital’s volunteer coordinators to see if there is a certain process you need to follow.
Set up a corporate sponsorship
Many businesses have volunteer operations built into their annual budgets. From grants to gifts to fundraising efforts to donation matching, there are many ways corporate entities give back to their communities. As an employee, check with your human resources manager to see what opportunities are available at your place of work. If none are in place yet, try starting your own!
There isn’t a bad time to give blood. Hospital blood banks are constantly going through their supplies and looking for more volunteers who are eager to give the gift that money cannot buy. Blood donors need to be at least 17 years old, weigh more than 110 pounds and be in good general health.
Get crafty for patients
Hospital rooms are cold, institutional and plain. Budgets don’t offer much for decorations to make the wings more comfortable and homey. That’s where arts and crafts-oriented volunteers come in. Hospitals are always willing to take on donations of handmade quilts and blankets, hats and mittens for babies and artwork for the walls.
Small businesses are as intertwined in their communities as hospitals are. They are eager to give back to the people they know and love. Introduce yourself and your cause to business owners and see if they would be interested in donating goods or services to patients as well as to doctors and nurses. Think: toys for children, spa treatments for nurses or coffeeshop gift cards for specialists.
Become an organ donor
Nobody knows what’s going to happen from one hour to the next. You might find yourself needing a transplanted lung or kidney—or you might be in the position to donate one. All you need to do is have your driver’s license show that you’re an organ donor. You can also have a living will direct your next-of-kin that you’d like to donate organs. If you are looking for other fundraising ideas, here is a list of 151 Fundraising Ideas.
You can also sign up to join the Gift of Life registry, which allows you to be matched for bone marrow transplants. It’s an easy process. All you need to do is perform a cheek swab.
No matter how old you are, how wealthy, how busy, there is always something you can do to be of service. If you want to start by making an impact on an organization that truly needs every volunteer they can get, begin at your local hospital. You don’t have to be a doctor to touch a life in a positive way.
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