A step inside the Newborn Intensive Care Unit of Chambersburg Hospital can instantly strike many emotions; a feeling of helplessness for tiny babies who might be facing medical challenges, a feeling of instant love for a new family member, a feeling of fear for new parents who are nervous to hold their premature baby for the first time.
Between the monitors and warmers, the nurses and specialized medical teams, the excited and overwhelmed parents, is a core and critical part of the unit, a group of sixteen Chambersburg Hospital volunteers who make an immense impact on the lives of the tiny patients within the NICU.
Among them, Carolyn O’Brien, a former cardiac EMT who is known by staff for her ability to comfort even the fussiest of patients. Often, O’Brien and other volunteers rock and console babies who were born addicted to narcotics and are enduring withdrawals.
“I just talk to them, sing to them, and move them until they find a position that is comfortable for them,” she explained, while rhythmically rocking a tiny infant.
When asked if the crying babies leave her feeling helpless, her response, without hesitation is the opposite.
“It makes you feel good, to them, offering them comfort is a lot. You know it’s tough on them, they cry, pull up, almost seize, but the babies can be here for sometimes three or four weeks, and eventually they come to know my voice,” she explained.
Although her gift may be in her ability to comfort the tiny patient’s, O’Brien and the other volunteers in the unit carry out many more responsibilities in their positions than holding patients, including restocking supplies, helping nurses, running errands, supporting staff and helping mothers and fathers in the unit.
Tina Sanders, director of volunteer services at Chambersburg Hospital, said the volunteers in the unit must undergo a three hour NICU training, comply with necessary background checks, and complete competency trainings.
In a year’s time, she reported that volunteers in just the NICU alone logged more than 2,134 hours.
“These volunteers are making a difference, and offer these patients an extra level of care. It’s wonderful to see the connection these volunteers have with the patients, and how much they love their duties,” she said.
For more information on volunteering at Chambersburg Hospital, please call (717) 267-7142. visit SummitHealth.org/Volunteer.
Summit Health is a non-profit network of hospitals and physician practices dedicated to building a healthier community.As Franklin County's leading healthcare provider, Summit Health offers family care, specialists, lab and imaging services, a fitness center, urgent care centers, and two award-winning hospitals.