When Akron Children’s leadership first rolled out its voluntary paid program called Helping Hands in fall 2021 to address critical patient needs, no one really knew what to expect. Staffing shortages organization-wide needed to be addressed, and who better to turn to for help than the hospital’s own workforce.
“We were overwhelmed by the response we received,” said Chris Young, chief nursing officer. “Over 10% of our workforce stepped up and said they wanted to help.”
Chris says she wasn’t surprised by the response, because Akron Children’s employees are known for their commitment to serving patients, families, communities and each other. To date, 800 employees have signed up for the program.
Helping Hands accepts both clinical and non-clinical volunteers to fill roles in understaffed areas in inpatient, emergency departments, ambulatory and other key support areas – including non-clinical departments. These shifts are flexible and intended to be scheduled outside of an employee’s regular working hours.
Becky Mundy, nursing professional development practitioner, Burn Center, didn’t have to go far when she signed up for Helping Hands.
“I have been working in the Burn Center on the dressing team doing tubs and dressing changes. I have also filled in as secretary,” she said. “This is different from my actual job because I don’t normally do direct patient care.”
Becky says everyone on the unit has been grateful for the help she provides.
“Staff are stressed, so any help is welcomed,” she said. “Even stopping in at lunch to see if they need coverage so that everyone gets a break is appreciated.”
De’Von Gomez works days as a patient service representative in the Ear, Nose and Throat Center (ENT). Although he only began working for the hospital in October 2021, he says he learned about Helping Hands from co-workers.
“My co-workers thought I would be a good fit for the program, so I researched it and signed up,” he said. “When I first started, it was purely based on the increased pay opportunity. However, once I worked my first shift, I realized I would enjoy the work more than anything.”
De’Von works at least 2 shifts per week as a secretary in the emergency department (ED).
“I enjoy the atmosphere, the people, the work and the fast-paced environment,” he said. “The ED is very different from ENT, and I enjoy the differences. The ED allows me to thrive as an active person while also being happy to help others complete a task.”
De’Von says ED staff have not just been appreciative of his efforts, but also welcoming.
“They see me as not just a Helping Hands employee, but as an actual ED employee,” he said.
As a visitor desk monitor in the Kay Jewelers Pavilion, Peg Klamert is used to working alone, although she deals daily with patients and families in her customer-facing role. She was inspired to sign up for Helping Hands because she thought it would be fun to check out other departments and what they do.
“I work 5 a.m. to 1 p.m., so I have extra time in the afternoon to work more,” she said. “I’ve been working 3 days a week in the kitchen. It’s very different from my job because in this role I don’t deal with a lot of people. I’m given a task list and I pound it out. I actually get more work done not talking with people!”
Rikki Johnson’s day job is as an epic analyst and applications trainer for Epic ASAP (Epic App used in the ED) and Epic trainer for Dorothy (Epic app used for Home Health). As an Epic trainer, she learned about Helping Hands early on and was asked to develop Epic training for volunteers taking on clinical shifts in the ED.
“I work pretty closely with leadership in the ED, and I knew about the daily staffing struggles the department faced,” she said. “I wanted to help my colleagues as much as I could.”
Rikki says her work through Helping Hands has helped her gain valuable perspective of the people processes and areas in Epic that can be improved.
“This knowledge is helping me grow in my current position because I can see Epic workflows in real patient settings and make changes to improve efficiency and patient care,” she said.
In the ED, Rikki has worked as a patient care assistant (taken vitals, answered call lights), but most of the time she works at the front desk adding patients to the system when they arrive.”
As someone who has worked virtually since March 2020, Rikki says the opportunity to work on-site has helped her build rapport and provide adequate support to the ED staff.
“Being on-site has allowed them to put a face to my name and allowed me to gain insight that I otherwise may have never known,” she said.
De’Von says he has found his participation in Helping Hands nothing short of rewarding.
“You have nothing to lose but so much to gain,” he said. “Not only do you gain more Akron Children’s family members, but you earn extra knowledge as well as pay.”
“I think Helping Hands is a great program,” Peg said. “For those who want to work more for extra income, find out different opportunities the hospital has to offer, or to meet new friends, this is a great way to do so.”
To anyone reluctant to commit to working shifts planned out weeks in advance, Rikki says she has found her experience to be very flexible.
“I do try to plan out the shifts I can work as much in advance as possible, but I think any time you can provide is appreciated and valuable,” she said.
Click here more information about the program, or to sign up to participate.
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