New Volunteers in the Emergency Department Are Making a Difference


Waiting for care in a hospital emergency department can be hard. But a new volunteer pilot program at Winchester District Memorial Hospital (WDMH) is helping to make it a little easier.

Retired healthcare professionals are spending time in the waiting room, supporting patients with a helping hand and a listening ear.

“We are excited to have these new volunteers in our Emergency Department, helping to support a safe and respectful environment,” notes Shannon Horsburgh, Clinical Manager. “Patients are pleased to have someone to talk to, ask questions, and advocate on their behalf. Often, it’s the little things that make a big difference in helping to relieve anxiety and make the wait a little more comfortable.”

Debra McLean helped to launch the program and is the first person to volunteer in this new role. She is a retired Nurse and co-chair of WDMH’s Patient and Family Engagement Committee: “I think this a very worthwhile project and we are already seeing the benefits. I’m excited to put my background and training to use. We bring our expertise right to the patients and their support persons.”

As an added bonus, Debra is able to bring her therapy dogs with her. “Ceilidh and Annie are a part of every visit I make to the Emergency Department. We are a team!”

Volunteers must be retired healthcare professionals such as Registered Nurses or Social Workers. They must complete the hospital’s volunteer orientation and screening process, as well as specialized training for the role.

For more information, please email
Shannon and Debra with dogs 

Cutline: Clinical Manager Shannon Horsburgh (left) with Volunteer Debra McLean and therapy dogs Annie and Ceilidh.