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Austin Health’s volunteer program hasn’t been immune to the impact of COVID during the past two years.
Volunteers haven’t been able to volunteer on site regularly to assist staff or patients and the Diamond Creek Op Shop has had times of closure, but it has recently been able to open again.
Like everything else affected by COVID, the program has needed to adapt and has embraced a new way of connection and assistance.
“Our volunteers are so willing to pivot to where the need is,” Volunteer Engagement Manager, Jodi Batchelor, says.
“Our remote volunteer roles were able to continue; our telehealth support role assisting patients with testing their technology before a telehealth appointment, as well as remote administration support roles.”
The program has been able to grow and develop further roles as a response to the pandemic.
“We had a team of 10 volunteers audit and track staff vaccination rates – they made more than 500 phone calls in less than 8 hours,” Jodi says.
“Our volunteers have been able to respond to the needs of the organisation quickly - they’re such an incredible, passionate group of people who are multi skilled and incredibly resilient.”
The volunteer engagement team recently worked with Lort Smith pet therapy volunteer teams to deliver pet therapy visits out in the open for the benefit of staff across all Austin Health sites.
About 16 volunteers will soon support the COVID Positive Pathways Program weekly by delivering essential medical equipment.
“The volunteer engagement team have been really focused on maintaining a strong connection to the organisation for our volunteers,” Jodi says.
“There’s so much more we can do now because people have been forced to accept the many changes that have come along with COVID-19, including the use of technology to keep connected, or to hold meetings and catch up.
“Our volunteers have not only accepted these changes, they have really embraced it – the recent Diamond Creek Op Shop AGM was held virtually via Teams and it was really wonderful to see everyone giving it a go.”
Jodi believes it’s an exciting time for the program post COVID.
“We’re looking at further developing roles so that we reach more people – we’re asking staff, what would you love to see and what would help you in your role,” she says.
“So much has changed since COVID so it’s a good opportunity to reassess.
“It’s a good time to be creative with what you do, there are no boundaries.”
It was International Volunteer Day yesterday, 5 December, which recognises and raises awareness about the important role volunteers play in responding to challenges facing the world.
If you're interested in volunteering at Austin Health, recruitment is underway for the Diamond Creek Op Shop and you can visit Volunteer at Austin Health for more information.