Social Question

poofandmook's avatar

What would you do about this hospital volunteer?

Asked by poofandmook (17320points) July 30th, 2010

My grandmother went in for a very high-risk hysterectomy today. Only one person was allowed in at a time in post-anesthesia recovery. My grandfather came out and told me to go in. I went to the desk and asked the volunteer to go inside, because I had to be escorted. She told me she was too busy to help me, and that I should come back when she wasn’t so busy (the phone was actually ringing quite a bit).

What would you do? How might your feelings be different if it was a paid employee and not a volunteer?

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9 Answers

SuperMouse's avatar

The real live person standing there waiting to see her grandmother is the person who comes first. The phones can wait. At the very least this volunteer should have called for someone else to help you. I would certainly share this with a supervisor. Odds are good this woman did not know how to handle the situation. A supervisor should be notified so the hospital can make it a habit to prepare all of their volunteers for eventualities such as these.

poofandmook's avatar

I actually spoke personally to the nursing supervisor for the department, and she was absolutely sweet as pie. She took all of my information and gave me a big hug.

Before that though, I felt like I needed to say something to the woman myself. When I went back to the desk, admittedly a little worked up at this point (upset more than angry), I went to the paid employee sitting next to her and asked her to be taken in. I then turned to the volunteer, and I said “you are the most unprofessional person I have ever dealt with in a medical setting. You don’t ever tell a patient’s family member that you are too busy for them, especially in a high-stress area like surgery. You should be ashamed of yourself, and I am definitely following up on this when I am through visiting my grandmother.” she sort of stared at me and muttered, “okay.”

She was lucky she was on the other side of a desk.

escapedone7's avatar

Wow. That is a high stress situation and emotions run high during such times. I usually sit on things for a little while. How I view the matter may change any after the surge of emotions is gone and the crises has passed. I try to shake it off and focus on the more important things that are happening. (How is your grandmother? I hope they are managing her pain effectively.) Once things are calm again and I can think about it calmly and reasonably, I write a very detailed written complaint to the facility in question. I would keep a copy.

Usually written complaints are taken more seriously.

jca's avatar

you were definitely in a tough spot and have a very valid point. however, the volunteer was probably told she must cover the phones (maybe the other paid person was on lunch or in bathroom or elsewhere) and so, since phones will ring and ring and probably cause a lot of confusion if they’re not answered, she probably felt it best to wait a minute or two and answer them, and then deal with you when the other person returned.

where was the escort for your grandfather? maybe they could have accompanied you.

the volunteer was probably frustrated and flustered at having been left with the busy phones alone. i think places are hesitant to discipline or chastise volunteers, as the volunteers are doing a totally benevolent thing by the act of volunteering itself. also, in these tough economic times, hospitals really rely on volunteer help to fill in where the paid staff has been cut back on.

AmWiser's avatar

@poofandmook you absolutely should have had words with the volunteer (or even if an employee treated you that way). Most volunteers are trained or briefed in their expected duties, because they represent the employees working there. Plus some things are just a matter of common sense—such as patients and family in stressful situations come first.
Hope your grandmother be well soon

poofandmook's avatar

@jca: don’t misunderstand me… I wasn’t angry or upset because I couldn’t go in right away. There are about fifty-eleven other things she could have said. A perfectly acceptable response would have been, “Okay, let me just clear out these phone lines and I’ll take you in” or, “my co-worker will be back in X amount of minutes, and she can escort you in as I am not to leave the desk” (the last one would have been horsehockey because she escorted no less than half a dozen other family members in before I got to see my grandmother) who was reported to be doing very well last night and may come home as early as this afternoon; thank you for asking.

The main issue here, @jca, is that you never EVER EVER use the phrase “I am too busy to help you” in any healthcare setting. There are lots of other acceptable ways to relay that message. And when we are talking about a surgical area, it is extremely high stress and the absolute LAST place you should have to worry about that sort of thing when you’re waiting for a family member to come out of an operation.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

You’re right, the volunteer or anyone with a heavy phone job should be prepared to explain the expectations of their job and then call for backup or at least say they’d like to help but are unable. I work with heavy phones and all is recorded so if the lines aren’t cleared within a certain amount of time then lectures are given out. Saying you are too busy makes it seem like a personal complaint but explaining you’re not allowed to leave the phones unattended or field lengthy inquiries should be reasonable.

It’s my personal view that most people volunteering feel they’re doing such a great free gift that they don’t need to take a few extra seconds to choose polite words/tone/actions, they feel they don’t need to go out of their way almost like they might be taken advantage of. The whole idea of volunteering though is to work as if that was your paid job and be held accountable to the job expectations. Ugh- hospitals.

SVTSuzie's avatar

Not really a difference. If your grandfather came out you would know, maybe, if her condition was stable or not. Others phoning might not known stuff concerning their loved ones. I would give the person time to settle, then ask again. The volunteer might have been flustered at the volume of calls and wanted to help everyone. If your family member was not stable or was dying , I would of just went in anyway.

poofandmook's avatar

@SVTSuzie: I didn’t know where she was. It’s not safe for the other patients in there for someone to go wandering around searching for a family member.

Also, like I said above, it doesn’t matter how busy or flustered she is. She shouldn’t be in that area then. She should be manning the gift shop or restocking the book cart.

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