By Jonesa Rodriguez - March 11, 2021
Volunteers at Moffitt Cancer Center are valued for their compassion and desire to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients. They are one of the important elements that helps keep the cancer center thriving and living up to its mission - to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer.
But, when COVID-19 stopped the world in 2020, the cancer center made the difficult decision to stop all volunteering services as a safety precaution. Almost 500 volunteers were sent home until further notice.
Not having the extra hand of support not only impacted team members but patients as well. Especially those who depended on volunteers for tasks such as finding their way around Moffitt.
“The absence of volunteers was felt keenly by patients and team members,” said Amy Greene, volunteer coordinator at Moffitt. “Volunteers support our patients and team members in tremendous ways by assisting with transport, wayfinding, technology support, comfort and companionship, just to name a few.”
Now, a year later, with more understanding of COVID-19, Moffitt is allowing volunteers to return to our campuses. But as most volunteers return with excitement, some have decided not to return due to the pandemic.
Malcolm Weathers, who volunteers in Moffitt’s surgery waiting area, has decided to come back. He has been volunteering at the cancer center for 14 years and sees the importance of returning to campus to assist patients waiting for surgery and also provide friendly conversation, which some patients have been missing.
“At the peak of the pandemic patients were not allowed to have family members or friends for support. It was difficult to see the patients having to face major surgery alone,” said Weathers. “As a volunteer, it was very important, as it still is, to interact with patients and allow them the opportunity to express their concerns and make it more comfortable to share their feelings if they chose to do so.”
Weathers says that despite a few minor procedure changes, nothing has made a difference to the volunteer goals, which is to serve patients and the cancer center.
Because Moffitt is taking COVID-19 protocols and procedures seriously, volunteers are screened each day before entering the cancer center and are required to wear masks and face shields. They are also required to do self-monitoring of any symptoms before coming in for their shift and report any positive cases to Moffitt’s Occupational Health department.
“At Moffitt, we are taking the same precautions with volunteers as we do with team members,” said Greene. “They are required to wear appropriate personal protection equipment, receive up-to-date COVID communication and are now being offered the vaccine.”
Greene states that many of the volunteers are also patients, so there is an abundance of caution to ensure health and safety for all.
The volunteer services team has just completed the first round of orientation and onboarding for the spring 2021 volunteers. The new volunteer application process occurs three times a year – fall, spring and summer.