Going out of the way to volunteer

Gayle Coleman

Gayle Coleman is a volunteer here at MSH. She is currently in the day surgery program. She visits patients, brings them a treat or juice, goes to the lockers to retrieve their items and takes them from the waiting room to see physicians. In her own words “her job is to make the patient feel at ease about their surgery”. 

She started volunteering at the hospital in October 2008 – almost 10 years ago. But she wasn’t always a volunteer at the hospital – she took a short hiatus around 2013. She moved from her home in Markham to Newcastle. At that time she also decided to volunteer at the hospital in Newcastle, rather than drive 45 minutes each way to volunteer at MSH. She thought, patients in her new neighbourhood would need help and she could lend a hand there. 

But soon after one shift at her new hospital, she asked to return to MSH.

At Markham Stouffville Hospital, I am acknowledged each time I come in for my shift. The surgical team treat me as a member of the team. I feel respected and that my work each week is valued.  

“At Markham Stouffville Hospital, I am acknowledged each time I come in for my shift. The surgical team treat me as a member of the team. I feel respected and that my work each week is valued,” says Coleman. 

Ever since that day, she has returned back to MSH, driving an hour and half round trip to take her shift in the hospital surgical department helping patients. 

She is not only a volunteer, she is also a patient. Coleman started here as volunteer because she was scared. She needed a knee replacement and wanted to get to know the hospital and the people before her surgery. So she started volunteering and working with patients and staff at the hospital. She was the one comforting patients before and after their procedures. And because she was so comfortable with the hospital, when it finally came time for her surgery she was not nervous or upset. In fact she fell asleep waiting for her procedure. 

“Every week, as I step in the front door, I feel a warmth – not because the heat is on, but because of the sense of community at this hospital, the culture of the staff. During my own surgery, nurses I had worked with came down to wish me luck or just give me a hug of confidence. And that meant a lot.”

Every Tuesday Coleman arrives early and settles in for her shift from 12-4 p.m., as a committed volunteer, she has provided over 1,300 hours of service and is an example of the embodiment of the MSH core values of commitment and compassion. The values she says she sees in MSH surgical staff and the reason she comes back each and every week.