Longest serving volunteer, dog therapy bring hope to patients
Volunteers play a critical role at the NIH Clinical Center with approximately 185 volunteers performing over 9,800 hours of service in 2019 – the equivalent to almost five full time staff. Volunteers, who range in age from 16 to 83, perform a wide variety of tasks in the hospital, from clinical support, greeting patients and families with coffee, serving as patient ambassadors to assisting as language interpreters.
Retiree Janet Logan, who worked at Fogarty International Center and other institutes during her NIH career, beat the odds to become a volunteer at the Clinical Center. Surviving breast cancer - twice - was the impetus leading her to volunteer with cancer patients at the hospital.
Logan is grateful for the breast cancer treatment she received at the NIH in 1991 and 2001. "It was time for me to give back to NIH for the wonderful care I received here."
Logan is recognized as the longest serving volunteer at the Clinical Center, and has volunteered for 24 years on the 12th floor outpatient clinic that treats patients with ovarian and other kinds of cancer.
She also enjoys traveling and is a cross-country skier who has traveled to many countries in Europe with the NIH Ski Club.
"My role is giving encouragement and hope to patients," says Logan.
Two other volunteers, Dave and Sandy Gill, were looking for activities to give back to the community in their retirement. Having heard about the healing capabilities of dogs, they decided animal-assisted therapy would be their focus. The Gills had three dogs well suited to do this type of work and had them certified through National Capital Therapy Dogs. With their interest in health and science, and the fact that Sandy was a government contractor who worked with NIH for many years, the Clinical Center was the perfect place to volunteer. The Gills' began visiting patients in 2014.
"I just knew that Toby, an active golden retriever, was put on this earth to be a therapy dog," Sandy stated. The Gill's other dogs, Cindy Bear, a black lab, and Rosko, another golden retriever, also visit the Clinical Center on Monday evenings, twice a month. Other therapy dog visits take place every other Tuesday in rotation with the Monday night visits.
Depending on the evening, the Gills and their dogs can be found visiting several units within the hospital or in a group setting in the 7th Floor Lounge. Toby is a favorite with the pediatric patients, while Cindy Bear loves bed visits where she can snuggle up with patients. Patients and their families have the opportunity to pet and play with the dogs as they recover from surgeries or undergo treatments. Some patients just want to pet a dog; others walk around the halls with the dogs, enabling them to get a bit of exercise; while others delight in seeing or getting the dogs to do tricks. The visits give patients a chance to socialize and proudly show off cell phone pictures of their pets.
"Patients miss their dogs and the feeling they receive from petting a therapy dog brings them comfort and smiles. The visits are a welcome change to the long days spent in the hospital and help to take away pain, discomfort and homesickness. Bringing this kind of joy to patients is gratifying and fulfilling," Gill says.
"The CC volunteer corps has established a sense of dedication and enthusiasm that aligns with the mission of NIH. Our volunteers stand ready to help patients and their families so that their hospital experience is stress-free," said Marcus Means, the Volunteer Coordinator for the Clinical Center's Volunteer Program that is a part of the Office of Hospitality and Volunteer Services.
- Mickey Hanlon, Debbie Accame