By Marty Russell

Daily Journal

If you have some free time on your hands and would like to make a difference in the life of someone who is homebound for health reasons, then North Mississippi Medical Center has a unique program to match you up with that person who needs help.

The first of its kind in the state, NMMC’s Home Health Agency created the new volunteer program after surveying its patients about their needs. The survey showed the top four needs that could be filled by a volunteer worker were companionship, running errands, writing letters and reading to the homebound.

“This has been a goal for several years,” said Phyllis Hunter, a registered nurse and the program coordinator. “Hospice has a very active volunteer program but our home care patients do not have anyone.”

The volunteers would not be performing any clinical tasks for homebound patients.

“They would stay with (the patient) two to four hours in a day to give the care givers a break and to run some errands or help prepare meals,” Hunter said.

She said the age of the volunteer is not necessarily a factor in being accepted into the program although they would have to provide their own transportation.

“We’re looking for committed individuals who care about caring for others and who have their own means of transportation,” Hunter said.

Already, the program has attracted the attention of about 75 students involved in the ROTC program and in the African American Creative Youth Organization at Tupelo High School.

“Often the negative side of the nation’s youth has been emphasized by the media,” said ROTC instructor Joe Hawkins. “This is not a total picture of our youth. They believe in helping the community and taking pride in their community and school.”

Hunter said an orientation program for the high school volunteers is scheduled for Feb. 15.

All volunteers in the program will be required to complete a six-hour training session before receiving their first assignment and all will be accompanied by a supervisor on that first visit.

The orientation session will cover such topics as communications skills, record keeping, handling emergency situations, patient confidentiality, reporting changes in a patient’s condition and proper dress for the volunteer visits.

The first orientation session for volunteers will be from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Wednesday in the NMMC Education Center. To reserve a spot in the session contact Hunter at 791-2479 or 1-800-843-3375.

“We’re looking for anyone who wants to volunteer some time,” Hunter said. “There’s no age limit, they just have to provide their own transportation.”

She said she hopes to begin sending volunteers out to homebound patients in late March.

Initially, the program will be limited to homebound patients in Tupelo and the surrounding area but, if it is successful, Hunter said it would be expanded to some of the hospital’s patients in other areas of Northeast Mississippi.

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