Editor's Note: This is an entry in our Scholarship Contest for Patients and Caregivers to attend the Mayo Clinic Social Media Summit Oct. 17-21 in Rochester, Minn. See this post:
for more details on the contest, and please cast your votes by liking or commenting on the candidates you think would be best.
Here is James Vaughn’s Essay:
What does a retired guy do with his life and, at the same time, be a caregiver to his stroke-paralyzed wife?
Play 18 holes of golf? (I hate golf)
Get a full or part-time job, if there are any, at my age? (Are you kidding?)
Learn a new hobby, like cooking? (I can’t boil water)
I had never volunteered for anything until a HMO medical center opened a short distance from my residence and they requested volunteers for their new hospital and medical office building. Well, what the heck; I was getting used to hospitals during my wife’s illness. Perhaps I could help others as others helped my wife during her treatment and rehabilitation. So, I volunteered and discovered that it gave me a productive and welcome 4-hour break each week to serve others by pushing wheelchairs, giving directions to patients and family members, and distributing magazines.
After volunteering for several months, I observed that the busy volunteer office staff was constantly answering phones with questions from prospective volunteers, from volunteers who wanted to sign up for special shifts and events, and a plethora of other inquiries. Could some of these questions be answered on a volunteer website? Although the medical center had an active website for its members, there was no dedicated page for volunteers that could be updated easily and frequently. The manager1 of Volunteer Services and I proposed a website project to the information technology dept. and they agreed to host a dedicated volunteer website. Since then, I have managed the website content from home while taking care of my wife. How great is that?
What a ride it has been. The volunteer website2 has developed over three years to include weekly e-zines, online signups for volunteer applications and special events and classes. Also, the website now includes links to volunteer departments in other Northern California medical facilities, links to Social Networks ( a contact list of medical and other help organizations), and a link to the popular Pet Therapy program.
Since delivering an invitational speech3 about our website to the California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems in 2009, internet communications have evolved to include social networking and mobile access. So now, I am learning all that I can about how the “new media” can be used to promote, recruit, and inform hospital volunteers. There are so many new and exciting ideas out there that might be useful in our volunteer organization. Which ideas are good? Which are “not so good?” Since many medical institutions are reluctant to use social media sites, e.g. Facebook and Twitter, are there acceptable ways to employ them to communicate with health care volunteers? As a self-taught web developer, I have learned to respect the successes and failures of others who are venturing into health care social media.
Attending the Mayo Clinic Social Media Summit would give me a wonderful opportunity to meet, discuss, share and learn with others about social networking platforms and how those ideas could continue our goals to promote, recruit, and retain volunteers in health care facilities.
P.S. Since I am not an employee of the HMO and there are no work-related sources of funds to cover costs of event registration and travel, I am applying for a scholarship to the Mayo Clinic Social Media Summit, Oct 17-21, 2011. Thank you for your consideration.
1. Dawn Thompson, Manager of Volunteer Services, Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara, California. 408-851-1715. email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Volunteer Website: http://www.kpschvolunteers.org
3. Google Document: Evolution of a Volunteer Website (https://docs.google.com/present/edit?id=0AV-4Di7HOZO1ZGY3M2hidmRfMzQ4YzV6d3RrZzU&hl=en_