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Discussing details of the new amputee peer program are (l-r): Herb Kolodny, peer mentor volunteer; Barbara Viglione, RN; John Redfield, regional coordinator, Ampower; and Lynelle Abel.

YNHH volunteers will celebrate National Volunteer Week April 10 - 16 with the theme: "Volunteers – Giving Time, Touching Lives." They kicked off the celebration at their annual appreciation dinner April 6.

More than 2,226 strong, volunteers ranging in age from high school students to seniors served 240,000 hours last year in nearly every area of the hospital. "Volunteers are an integral part of the hospital," said Lynelle Abel, director, Volunteer and Guest Services. "We continue to grow and add new programs for patients, families and the hospital community."

This year, Volunteer Services launched a peer visitation volunteer program for amputee patients that pairs them with volunteers who are themselves amputees. Approximately 150 patients annually face amputations at YNHH due to cancer, infections, congenital illnesses, trauma and other causes.

"This is necessary, and will help many patients," said Barbara Viglione, RN, who initiated the program. A nurse for more than 30 years, she is sarcoma nurse coordinator in the Surgical Oncology Specialty Outpatient Unit at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven.

"Patients who are facing the amputation of a limb or recovering from an amputation often need mental preparation and emotional support," she said. "The volunteers in this program already understand the incredible challenges of losing a limb and the aftermath of figuring out activities of daily living in this new reality."

Volunteer Services has partnered with an organization called Ampower to help train volunteers as peer mentors. Patients who want to participate in the program are paired with a peer volunteer who visits them in the hospital before and/or after surgery, depending on the circumstances.

Physicians, nurses and clinical support staff caring for patients who are preparing for an amputation or who have recently had one should confirm that the patient wants to participate in the peer visitation program, then contact Viglione, 203-200-1682 or [email protected].

The amputee initiative is one of several non-traditional programs involving volunteers who do not have set shifts at the hospital, but serve on an "on-call" basis, Abel said. Other peer-to-peer volunteer programs include Patient-4-Patient Breast Cancer Support, Cardiac Peer Mentors and the 12-Step Recovery Program.

"Please remember to thank these and other volunteers within your departments and work groups during Volunteer Week and every week for all that they do," Abel said.