Press Release

AHA Honors Four Hospital Volunteer Programs

WASHINGTON (April 5, 2016) – The American Hospital Association (AHA) will honor four hospital volunteer programs with its Hospital Awards for Volunteer Excellence (HAVE). The AHA HAVE Awards Program is in its 33rd year and highlights the extraordinary efforts of volunteers and volunteer programs and the positive impact their contributions have on the patients, hospitals, health systems and communities they serve.

The winners fall into four categories: community service programs; community outreach and/or collaboration programs; fundraising programs; and in-service hospital volunteer programs. Recipients of this year’s prestigious award hail from California, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Colorado. Representatives from these winning programs will receive their awards at the HAVE Awards Breakfast on Monday, May 2, during the AHA Annual Membership Meeting in Washington, D.C. 

The 2016 HAVE winners are:


Community Service Programs

“Doula Volunteer Program”

Sutter Davis Hospital/Sutter Health – Davis, Calif.

The goal of the Doula Volunteer Program is to provide free doula support to laboring or postpartum patients. The term doula comes from the Greek word meaning “a woman who serves.”  Volunteer doulas are non-clinical members of the care team who provide support in accordance with the medical and midwifery plan of care and a patient’s preference. The doula’s role includes hands-on physical and psychological support during birth.

Some 23 percent of the hospital’s 1,500 births annually are attended by volunteer doulas. Patients attended by doulas have fewer medical interventions, improved bonding with their babies, higher breastfeeding rates, lower cesarean rates, fewer incidents of post-partum depression and mood disorders and lower medication usage. 

Volunteer doulas are required to participate in a robust community outreach program to educate the public about the impact doulas can have on patient care. The doulas are also included in care improvement meetings that include patients, families, nurses, midwives, physicians, nurse practitioners and childbirth educators. 

The doula program has been active since 1994, and now includes 75 volunteers from the community. Doulas receive continuing education and are required to fulfill a two-year commitment of a minimum of 16 hours of call each month. The program also serves as a workforce recruiting tool for new registered nurses seeking training opportunities.


Community Outreach and/or Collaboration

“Community Care Network Health Coaches”

Winona Health—Winona, Minn. 

The Community Care Network (CCN) Health Coaches program was developed to improve individual health and quality of life, prevent hospitalization and emergency department visits and avoid unnecessary health care costs. In partnership with Winona State University, the CCN trains students and other volunteers to become health coaches. The goal of the coaches is to assist people struggling with chronic health conditions by conducting home visits and becoming non-clinical members of the care team. 

When patients are referred to the program, they meet with nurses or social workers, who assign a volunteer health coach to visit their homes weekly or bi-weekly. Coaches support clients in their efforts to improve their health and strengthen their community connections. In the first three months of the program, emergency department visits and hospitalizations for CCN clients declined by more than 85 percent. Some 47 percent of CCN clients have primary diagnoses of mental illness and 20 percent have congestive heart failure. The average client is 60 years old and coping with multiple chronic conditions. 

University students enroll in a two-credit course for health coaches and must volunteer a minimum of two additional semesters as a coach. Most continue volunteering until they graduate. The program also has trained community members – primarily retired health professionals – to become health coaches. These non-student volunteers undergo eight hours of training before going on home visits.


Fundraising Programs

Vettes to Vets”

Bedford Veterans Hospital/VA New England Healthcare System—Bedford, Mass.

The goal of the annual Vettes to Vets Corvette show is to raise funds and collect resources to benefit veterans cared for at the Bedford Veterans Affairs Hospital. Since the community event was started by a volunteer veteran in 2003, more than $400,000 has been raised in monetary and non-monetary donations. Funds have been used to rebuild the hospital’s greenhouse; maintain an education center for veterans with free Internet and computer training; build a new hospice unit; and purchase a wheelchair van for recreational outings for patients. 

Some 100 volunteers work every year on the two-day fundraiser, which includes a dinner, silent auction, live auction, parade of Corvette cars, afternoon barbecue, musical entertainment and donations of comfort items such as shampoo, body wash, toothbrushes, combs, socks and deodorant. 

The Corvette parade has grown from 25 cars in 2003 to 550 vehicles in 2015, including car owners from New England and beyond. The parade winds through town and ends in the courtyard of the medical center, allowing patients who are too ill or disabled to participate in the event to see the festivities from their rooms.


In-Service Hospital Volunteer Programs

“Storycatcher Program”

Longmont United Hospital—Longmont, Colo. 

The goal of Storycatchers is to obtain the life stories of patients and share them with hospital staff, physicians, family and friends. The program engages patients in humanizing and personalizing their hospital experiences. Volunteers interview patients and their loves ones, and write stories or poems capturing the essence of the patients’ lives. Communicating their stories allows patients to restore and enhance their relationships with their loves ones, including details and feelings that might not have otherwise been conveyed. The stories are often used in eulogies and obituaries. 

Developed by a volunteer who is a retired nurse, the program includes training and resources for volunteers to learn how to interview patients and loved ones and write short biographies. A half dozen volunteers are currently active in the program, in collaboration with the hospital’s volunteer services department, transitional care unit and spiritual care services. 

In a recent nine-month period, 55 stories or poems were completed. The program touches people and changes lives. It facilitates farewells, lifts human beings up to take on the challenge of living anew and reminds health care workers why they do their jobs. For the patients, it offers storytelling and story catching as a means of reminiscing, expressing feelings and closing chapters.

About the AHA

The AHA is a not-for-profit association of health care provider organizations and individuals that are committed to the health improvement of their communities. The AHA is the national advocate for its members, which include nearly 5,000 hospitals, health care systems, networks, other providers of care and 43,000 individual members. Founded in 1898, the AHA provides education for health care leaders and is a source of information on health care issues and trends. For more information, visit the AHA website at

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