Notes of Gratitude Engage Volunteers, Spread Positivity
The Office of Patient Experience, Volunteer Services, Food Services, the Mail Room and Market Research and Insights recently collaborated to provide volunteers an opportunity, from home, to demonstrate their continued support for Cleveland Clinic.
Volunteers and Cleveland Clinic Patient Panel members throughout Northeast Ohio were invited to write notes to our patients and caregivers at Ohio and Nevada locations.
To prevent the spread of infection, participants were instructed to practice frequent hand hygiene and cough etiquette when writing their notes. Infection Prevention requested individuals to not participate if they were experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.
“Writing notes of encouragement to patients, in particular, is important as we experience times of reduced visitation,” says Amy Szabo, Program Manager of the Our Voice: Healthcare Partner Program in Volunteer Services, which is part of the Office of Patient Experience.
So far, approximately 390 participants have written more than 1,800 letters to caregivers and patients.
“Our caregivers were happy to get a positive message for the care they provide to others,” says Maria Bazdar, BSN, RN, Nurse Manager in the Emergency Department at main campus.
Mail Room teams delivered caregivers’ notes to their unit/area manager or health unit coordinator to place in caregivers’ mailboxes. Food Services delivered patients’ notes with meal trays.
“Our food vendor partners were happy to participate in the project,” says Bill Koziol, Executive Director of Patient Support Services. “The team was flexible and willing to adjust the process to ensure it would be the best outcome for patients.”
Inspiration for writing
Karen Scott, RN, a retired Cleveland Clinic nurse who has been volunteering at Hillcrest Hospital for more than three years, felt honored to be able to express gratitude to those who have gone “over and beyond their usual excellent care” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Providing positive feedback makes caregivers aware they are valued,” Scott says.
Another volunteer says it made him “realize how special these caregivers are for the sacrifices they make every day to keep us safe.”
Volunteer Karen King-Ziegler appreciated the opportunity to support patients from home.
“When imaging someone being extremely sick and unable to see the face or smile of a caregiver because they have a mask on — plus unable to have visitors — must be the loneliest, scariest time in someone’s life,” she says. “I was grateful I could send a small note to let patients know we truly care about them and possibly help them recover.”
Market Research and Insights and Volunteer Services, under the direction of Julie Rish, PhD, collaborated to best include Patient Panel members in the letter writing project as well.
“I was grateful to share this empathetic opportunity with patients included in our online patient panel, as it includes a diverse group of patients,” says Michelle Gandolf, Director of Market Research and Insights. “I hope the letters they helped write make a difference for the patients and caregivers receiving them.”
As a longtime member of the Patient Panel wrote in a letter to Gandolf’s team, “Your caregivers are amazing, no doubt. Your work to put together a letter-writing campaign to thank them is a great idea, and it shows such a sense of generosity.”
It’s OK to Feel Grief – and Whatever Else You’re Feeling Right Now
“We are experiencing a lot of disappointment right now — in both small and big ways — and grief is going to be a factor,” says clinical health psychologist Amy Sullivan, PsyD, ABPP. “It’s really important that we process this and stay connected to other people in safe ways.”