Ten years ago, a staff member at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia launched a program to help ensure patients who would otherwise be alone as they neared the end of life would have company as their final moment neared. The program, known as “No One Dies Alone” (NODA) matches patients with volunteers who are simply present and offer comfort. While it had existed elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest, the program was new to the south sound.
NODA grew in size in Olympia, and two years ago it expanded to Providence Centralia Hospital, where the program started up with group of a dozen volunteers. The program is similar to the 12th Hour program offered through hospice, though NODA operates independently, and most of the NODA patients at Providence Centralia are not on hospice. (Hospice also offers medical care, while NODA is about offering companionship.)
Its spread has been through grass roots, with passionate men and women joining because they believe in the cause, says Eliana Stockwell-Ferber, the NODA Program Coordinator at Providence Centralia. A particular benefit is that the NODA program offers flexibility for volunteers’ schedules. Each volunteer brings a different set of experiences to the role, and Eliana says the program places heavy emphasis on volunteers taking care of themselves and stepping back when they need to, as the work can be emotional. But along with the emotions, volunteers report great satisfaction when they are able to be there for someone in their time of need.
The program is filling a need and making a great difference, she says. Caregivers can often tell that a patient is physically comforted by the companionship, and family members express their appreciation for the pure kindness offered.
“The bottom line is loving kindness,” Eliana says. This year the hospital has had 11 vigils with more than 250 hours of volunteer work, though that represents a fraction of the breadth of the program offered at Providence St. Peter. Anyone interested in volunteering at Providence Centralia can contact Eliana at Eliana.Stockwell-Ferber@Providence.org for more information.