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Meet and Greet Volunteers – Showing the Way around University Hospital Galway

The Meet and Greet Volunteer Service at University Hospital Galway has been running very successfully for almost five years now, and staff and visitors have been wholehearted in their praise of the valuable work that the volunteers have been carrying out during that time.  Two of the Meet and Greet Volunteers, Bregeen Cassidy and Ann O’Toole, have been working at the hospital for the last two and five years respectively.  They signed up to be volunteers as they believed it would be a useful way of giving something back to the community, and they have discovered over the past few years what a valuable and appreciated service it is to people visiting the hospital.
The main role of the volunteer is to provide a friendly welcome and reassuring first impression to everyone who enters the hospital and to help and guide visitors and patients to the various wards, departments and clinics in the hospital. The Meet and Greet Volunteers sit to the left hand side as visitors and patients go into the main foyer of UHG.  When people need directions to a particular ward or clinic, the volunteers will bring them to their destination, chatting and easing stressed nerves along the way.  The volunteers wear distinctive maroon bibs with the words “Volunteer – Galway University Hospitals”, so they are easily identifiable and are always very approachable and willing to help.  Bregeen and Ann work every Tuesday morning but pairs of other volunteers are there each morning and afternoon to show visitors and patients the way to their clinics and Outpatient appointments.
Bregeen, who lives on Maunsells Road, Galway says; “We find that what we do is very helpful to people coming into the hospital as a lot of people don’t know where the various units are.  They are usually stressed and nervous, but we are very good chatters and try and put them at ease. We find out where they want to go and on the way we’ll chat about the weather or the crops or whatever they want to talk about.  They are always very grateful and say they couldn’t have managed without us.”
Ann, who is originally from Westport and now living in Galway, signed up for the Volunteer Service when it was launched almost five years ago.  She says; “I wanted to do some voluntary work at the time and I thought this would be a beneficial thing to do.  I’ve enjoyed it and have met and gotten to know very nice people over the years. People who come in on their own need our help in particular.  It can be quite daunting coming into hospital so it’s nice for people to have us to show them the way and put them at ease.  The same people often come back to us to let us know how they got on at their appointments which is very nice.”
Phil Whyte, Volunteer Co-ordinator, is fulsome in her praise of the volunteers, saying they have brought a wealth of life experience which has been of great benefit to patients, their families and visitors in general. She comments; “University Hospital Galway was one of the first hospitals in the West to introduce the Volunteer Service and it has helped ensure that the hospital experience is as pleasant as possible in what can be a worrying, overpowering experience for some patients, families and visitors.
“The Volunteer Service has been a great success at the hospital, with very positive feedback from the public. The service is there to assist patients and visitors who may need help in finding where specific services are based in the hospital. It may sound simple, but if a patient or visitor is worried or stressed when they come to the hospital, it can mean so much to be greeted by a friendly face that will help them get to their destination. The volunteers also wait with frail older patients in the foyer while relatives bring their cars to the front door, and again relatives value this service greatly.
“The volunteers are ordinary people who give willingly of their time and generously help others to cope with the challenges of attending a busy acute hospital. They have brought such positivity and energy to their role and have become an integral and valued part of the team in University Hospital Galway.”
Photo Caption:
L-R: Bregeen Cassidy and Ann O’Toole, two of the many Meet and Greet Volunteers for Galway University Hospitals