The history of health care in Washington State is a long and proud story of volunteerism. The loggers who first formed communities in the Washington territory were closely followed by the Sisters of Providence who established hospitals and schools decades before the state government was formed. A strong mission of service continues to drive hospitals and clinics to this day.
The service mission of hospitals is made real by the doctors, nurses and others who provide direct patient care, as well as volunteers. Traditionally, volunteers have offered their support through hospital auxiliaries. Once known as women’s auxiliaries, they were organizations set up to organize volunteers in support of the hospital, also organizing drives, gift shops and so much more. Through their efforts, they made it possible for hospitals to serve the poor and to provide care and comfort to patients.
But as so many things in health care are changing, so are the auxiliaries and the use of volunteers. This summer, the Washington State Association of Hospital Auxiliaries made the hard decision to dissolve as an organization. Too many local hospital auxiliaries had either dissolved or evolved into different structures. Certainly, volunteers are still needed and a central part of hospital life, but the role of the auxiliary has, in too many cases, changed.
I was honored to work with the auxiliary at Providence St. Peter’s in Olympia for many years, and their care and compassion set a high standard. While we continue to treasure the contribution of community volunteers, we must also pause for a moment to appreciate the decades of support that we’ve received from dedicated auxiliary volunteers. Our hospitals would not have been the same without you.