Kim Rosebud-Bell was helping someone find his way through Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, as part of her once-a-week volunteer shift as an ambassador. “I don’t know if my wife’s going to make it,” the man confided in Rosebud-Bell.
Rosebud-Bell gave him the best gifts she could at that moment – her empathy, her ear and her time.
She ran into him the following week. “Come with me,” he said. “I want to show you something.” He led her to a room – not in the ICU this time – where he introduced her to his wife, who was sitting up in bed and eating.
Rosebud-Bell has moments like this nearly every time she volunteers as an ambassador. “When people walk in the doors of this hospital, you don’t know what their story is,” she said. “But I know I have the power to positively impact their story.”
Novant Health hospitals need volunteers for a variety of service functions including assisting in the gift shops, serving as ambassadors in waiting areas, providing pet therapy services – to providing art projects at the bedside and a number of other roles.
Kathy Brown, volunteer services manager at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center, knew Rosebud-Bell would make an ideal ambassador when she interviewed her.
Brown said the mother of three is “energetic, always smiling, committed, dependable, can work independently and has a heart for service. She had everything we look for in that role.”
While being an ambassador may not suit everyone, there is a volunteer role to suit every personality, Brown said.
Rosebud-Bell’s decision to volunteer was deeply personal. Her father died in 2016 after an extended illness. She had taken care of him while he was sick – and knew she was an innate caregiver. Nurturing comes naturally to her. She’s a nanny by profession and recently became a certified medical assistant.
The right fit
Every applicant goes through the same rigorous screening process – no matter which area of the hospital he or she wants to serve.
The process to become a volunteer is much like interviewing for a job. “We work hard to match the right person with the right volunteer opportunity – to ensure best fit for both the volunteer and the organization,” said Brown. “Novant Health’s volunteer services departments have multidimensional functions – HR, training, development and advocacy. Our department serves as the liaison between the volunteer and departments, and when there’s a good fit, the volunteer becomes part of the unit’s team.”
Anyone over 18 can apply online. Completing an application process is the first step. Next up is an in-person interview with a volunteer services team member. A background check and a health screening are also required. Volunteers are carefully vetted and well-trained before they begin interacting with patients and their families.
“Our department looks at things from a patient perspective,” said Brown. “I’m a Novant Health team member, but I’ve also been a patient and the family member of a patient. So we try to look at volunteers from that perspective, who has empathy, compassion and understanding of the small things that make a difference.”
For instance, she knows first impressions count. She wants patients – and their friends and family – to see a friendly face when they walk in. There are several entry points, and Brown tries to position ambassadors at as many of those entrances as possible. “We need an army,” she said. “At any given time at Presbyterian Medical Center alone, we could use 15 volunteer ambassadors like Kim.” And other Novant Health hospitals are always in the hunt for volunteers who love working with the public and enjoy helping families when they could use a little extra support.
“We’re looking for people who will smile at and make eye contact with a stranger,” she explained. “We encourage ambassadors to do more than point visitors in the right direction. We want them to say, ‘Let me take you there.’ Kim is a superstar at going the extra mile.”
To be an ambassador, it helps to be outgoing. And you need to like being on your feet. People who count their steps each day are amazed at how many they get in when working an ambassador shift, Brown said. “When you’re an ambassador, the whole hospital is your territory,” she said.
“It also involves asking visitors if they need help finding their way – and then escorting them,” Brown said. “People bring their fears and pain to a hospital. Ambassadors are often the first people visitors encounter, and they set the tone for the visitor experience.”
When patients and family members encounter Rosebud-Bell, their worries – if only for a minute – are calmed. In her presence, they know they’re with someone who cares deeply.
“I know my purpose when I go volunteer,” Rosebud-Bell said. “Each time I’m there, it blesses me.”
Learn more about becoming a volunteer at NovantHealth.org/volunteer.