CHLA Volunteers Keep Helping During Pandemic
A group of CHLA volunteers, from left to right: Lucy Rodriguez, Jairo Lopez, Tessa Carlisle, Jolie Held and Olivia Bates.
As CHLA responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospital’s volunteers didn’t miss a beat. The program safely continued and adapted to the organization’s needs.
By Julia Acheson
Volunteers are an integral part of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and provide invaluable service to patients and their families. In a time when many other hospitals put their volunteer programs on pause, CHLA found a way to continue its program safely.
Each year, more than 500 compassionate individuals from the community volunteer their time in over 100 areas of the hospital. CHLA's volunteers, managed by the Volunteer Resources team, provide special services that help the hospital create hope and build healthier futures. Normally, volunteers go through background checks and a training program. Volunteering during a pandemic meant doing additional training focused on safety practices.
“Our volunteers were quick to adapt to new protocols,” shares Rosby Lamm, Volunteer Resources Manager who oversees CHLA’s volunteer program. “They follow the same guidelines as all other CHLA team members, including wearing a mask at all times, practicing physical distancing and taking part in a health screening upon arrival at the hospital.”
Shifting to meet the hospital’s needs
While the number of volunteers on campus was reduced after the pandemic began, volunteers stepped up in new ways. For example, they assisted with childcare for hospital employees during the initial response to COVID-19. Whenever extra hands were needed to get supplies from point A to point B or assist with mask distribution for employees, CHLA’s volunteers were there to help. They clocked nearly 4,500 hours of service from March 16 through the end of July.
The need continued for volunteers to escort families and help them find their way to various clinics or areas of the hospital—a volunteer program called At Your Service. Approximately 100 escorts are provided each day. Other programs like the Amerman Family Foundation Dog Therapy Program adjusted, providing virtual dog therapy to patients. The mobile play cart has adjusted too, and toy distribution, which Volunteer Resources oversees, continues—with over 75,000 toys distributed so far this year.
The mobile play cart averages 125-150 interactions in a four-hour shift. Volunteers hand out crayons and coloring books, while maintaining a safe distance. These interactions help make the hospital a more friendly environment for young patients and their family members.
“It’s amazing to watch our volunteers at work and how they engage with families and help make the patient experience a positive one,” says Lamm. “Their consistency and dedication is phenomenal.”
Nearly every area of the hospital is positively impacted by volunteers in one way or another—even areas like the clinical lab where one volunteer is supporting busy lab staff.
“Our volunteers are everywhere behind the scenes,” says Lamm. “They are smiling behind their masks and putting in thousands of hours and steps.”
The fact that volunteers have been on campus performing their duties every day of the COVID-19 response is a testament to the service they provide to patients and families and how they are valued by the organization.
“It speaks volumes,” Lamm says. “If you see someone at CHLA wearing a blue or red apron, I’d encourage you to thank them for their work. They are here providing a philanthropic service, and their positivity makes such a big difference.”