Written by Jude Henders, Coordinator, Volunteer Resources, Volunteer Resources

Langley Memorial Hospital is making a difference in their PATH unit with a new Walk and Talk Companion volunteer program to help patients regain mobility.

Bob Jacoby and Madison Ens enjoy one last walk together as Bob awaits his discharge papers. Bob was ready to go home and thanks volunteers like Madison for taking the time to accompany him for walks around the unit during his stay at Langley Memorial Hospital this summer. Bob jokes “my wife has been feeling bad for me being stuck here," but thanks to the staff and volunteers he’s back on his feet and ready to go home.

The goal of the Walk and Talk volunteer program was to provide support to independent patients wanting to amp their “get up and go” leading to early discharge. However with much consideration to all patients, we soon realized this was not the only goal.

Our task group, which consisted of physiotherapist clinical practice lead, PATH manager, clinical nurse specialist and volunteer resources coordinator, met to brainstorm what this role would look like. We realized there is more to consider. What about patients who are in wheelchairs or bed bound? Stimulation was more than physical movement, too. For some, a friendly conversation was often enough to improve a patient’s outlook on their day. Improved morale equals improved health.

Recruitment of volunteers for this program took place in the winter of 2016. The program started with four volunteers - two volunteers per shift, two days a week. Staff identified the patients who could benefit from this program. Having two volunteers per shift works very well as they are coached to bring the patients together and introduce them and see if they have common interest. In spring 2017, we added four more volunteers during the week days increasing the service to four days per week.

During a recent evaluation of the program, volunteer Madison shared:

“My role in the PATH unit has allowed me to make positive connections with patients throughout their stay at the hospital. Whether it is a quick hello, an extensive conversation, or a walk around the unit, helping patients feel valued and cared for is a rewarding opportunity that is integral to their recovery. This program is based on compassion for others and a passion to bring encouragement and community to each person we visit with."

One group of volunteers found two ladies who both liked the Ellen show, so the goal was to walk to the congregate TV lounge and watch it together. "It was great fun," said our volunteers, Stuart and Indy, who are both university students studying health care. Creating connections with fellow patients is a great way to maintain social connectedness, even when the volunteers are not there.

The Walk and Talk program is getting noticed regionally and with the help of staff and community volunteers throughout Fraser Health we hope programs like this continue to grow

For more information about the Walk and Talk program or to learn how to start your own program contact: Helen Chow, Geriatric Clinical Nurse Specialist at helen.chow@fraserhealth.ca or Jude Henders, Coordinator, Volunteer Resources jude.henders@fraserhealth.ca.


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