A new program at O’Connor Hospital offers dying patients the most valuable of human gifts: a dignified death. The No One Dies Alone program provides a reassuring presence to dying patients who would otherwise be alone. “With this program, you witness firsthand the wonderful transformation happening on both sides,” shares Sr. Patrice Coolick, RN, a Sister of St. Joseph and an active participant at O’Connor who implemented this program for the hospital. “The Compassionate Companions connect with the patients and contribute goodness that extends beyond themselves. The atmosphere is very warm and caring.”
Volunteer Director Marianna Kuhn oversees the training. “When an associate signs up to take the course and become a Compassionate Companion, we have an interview process to be sure the person is right for this program,” she offers. “We’ve trained associates to be of assistance, not only to the chaplains, but to the staff as well.” Chaplains continue to administer Last Rites, but often have schedules that do not allow them to be onsite with a patient for hours and hours. “We recently ministered to a man who had no family or friends and stayed with him more than 30 hours until he passed away,” she says.
According to volunteer Genie Giguere, RN, a nurse in O’Connor’s Intensive Care Unit, many O’Connor associates have answered the call to complete the 9-hour training. “Compassionate Companions are generous hospital associates that give of their time and themselves,” she explains. “We give our coordinator our available times and dates, so when there is a need the coordinator refers to a phone tree.” Twenty-four associates are now trained and on call 24 hours a day seven days a week.
Compassionate Companions arrive on the scene with a backpack full of items such as soothing music, prayers and poetry. “We sit vigil at the bedside and hold a hand, read a book or prayer and comfort the person,” says Giguere. “The beauty that occurs in the room is serene and glorious.” Some Companions use oils to drop on the hands of their patients to provide more comfort as they sit vigil for five to 36 hours.
“We give care, we receive care and sometimes we do it at the same time,” concludes Sr. Patrice.
For more information about the program, please contact Volunteer Director Marianna Kuhn at (408) 947-3962.