MIAMI, May 11, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Professional nurses and nursing students from across the US can share their expertise and support front-line nursing colleagues by joining VITAS Healthcare's Volunteer ProActive Call to Action, an initiative that trains volunteer nurses and nursing students to check in regularly by phone with socially isolated hospice patients and their families/caregivers.
VITAS, the nation's leading provider of end-of-life care, is issuing the call for volunteers during National Nurses Week 2020 (May 6-12), a celebration of profound importance at a time when many critical-care US nurses are battling COVID-19 on the frontlines of healthcare while other nurses are furloughed or working scaled-back hours.
Robin Fiorelli, senior director of volunteer and bereavement services for VITAS, describes the program as an ideal opportunity for nurses, nursing students and nursing organizations to make a tangible difference in the lives of hospice patients and their families. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, many nurses are working reduced hours at the same time that hospice patients are unable to leave their homes or unwilling to invite healthcare workers and volunteers into their homes for compassionate end-of-life care.
"A warm call from our nursing volunteers can brighten the day of a hospice patient and reassure a patient's family member that they are not alone during the pandemic," Fiorelli says.
"VITAS provides training for all volunteers, and the experience gives nurses and nursing students exposure to post-acute specialties like hospice that they might not encounter during their career or schooling," Fiorelli explains. "Because these calls have been so successful at improving the patient and caregiver experience, we've decided to continue these relationships and proactive calls well after we've left this pandemic behind."
Launched in mid-April, the volunteer initiative has already trained nurses and nursing students who are making regular calls to patients or their caregivers, while others await onboarding/assignment to one of 48 VITAS hospice programs throughout the US.
AAMN President Blake K. Smith, MSN, BN, says that even before COVID-19, his organization had been exploring volunteer opportunities for active-duty nurses and nursing students who require community service hours for nursing school acceptance and graduation.
"During this pandemic, our members have been asking, 'What can we do? How can we help?'" Smith explains. "Many nurses and nursing students are sheltered at home, yet we feel we should be on the front lines with our colleagues. Stewardship and service to our communities are in our DNA as nurses, so participating in the VITAS Volunteer Call to Action was a prefect decision for us."
Beverly Morgan, president of Lambda Psi Nu, said volunteering with VITAS is an ideal alternative for her sorority's community service program, which was suspended during COVID-19.
"We're all bedside licensed practical nurses in the trenches, trying to provide quality care services every day, and part of our mission is to improve the quality of healthcare in communities of despair," says Morgan, who committed 500 volunteer hours from her organization. "The VITAS initiative is not only our way to give back to our community, it's also an awesome opportunity to connect VITAS patients with nurses who are caring and knowledgeable."
Interested nurses or nursing students can find more information and apply at VITAS.com/volunteer.
About VITAS® Healthcare Established in 1978, VITAS Healthcare is a pioneer and leader in the American hospice movement. Headquartered in Miami, Florida, VITAS (pronounced VEE-tahs) operates 48 hospice programs in 14 states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin) and the District of Columbia. VITAS employs 12,262 professionals who care for patients with advanced illness daily, primarily in the patients' homes, and also in the company's 27 inpatient hospice units as well as in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living communities/residential care facilities for the elderly. At the conclusion of the first quarter of 2020, VITAS reported an average daily census of 19,215. Visit www.vitas.com.