Volunteer Spotlight for National Volunteer Week 2023

Volunteer Week Spotlight
Clockwise from top left: Volunteers Suzanne Gustafson (Wayfinding), Isabella Maltese (Goodnight), Christine Hyder (HELP), Sandy and Barry Rooks (Events and Ticket Sales for the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation), Kathy Smith (PFA), Abbey Hunter, Shae Coffey, Abby Mazzuca, and Caroline DiFelice (Goodnight) and Sidney Hiscox (Goodnight).

It’s National Volunteer Week, and we’d like you to meet some of the dedicated Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre and Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation volunteers that positively impact the lives of patients and their families every single day.


Volunteer Program: Goodnight

When Isabella Maltese started volunteering with the Hospital’s Goodnight program in 2017, walking into patients’ rooms to offer a refreshment and friendly visit was a big step out of the grade 11 student’s comfort zone.

Isabella, like many young people who come to volunteer at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, planned to have a career in health care one day, and she knew this volunteer experience was a great opportunity to get more familiar with the hospital environment and build on her communication skills with patients. She kept coming in for her weekly evening shift, and two years later became the program’s Service Leader, responsible for training and supporting other Goodnight volunteers.

Isabella says she likes the program and especially training new volunteers. “They’re excited to start. As high school students, they can be shy at first. I was shy too. I tell them, ‘Just do your thing. You’ll grow more confident.’” She also lets them know that she is available to talk after their shifts if they want to reach out.

Now a graduate of Lakehead University’s Nursing program, Isabella is planning to begin a Master of Public Health program this fall.

Isabella says the Goodnight program makes a difference. “I have never had a bad experience with a patient. They are always happy to see you and want to talk. It makes a difference, to sit with them for a few minutes or a half hour if someone needs to talk.”

The Goodnight program is particularly suitable for high school students’ schedules since the shifts are in the early evening. Meet a few of the dedicated, caring Goodnight Volunteers:

Sidney Hiscox wanted to volunteer at the Hospital to help people and because she wanted to work in health care in the future. She says she enjoys helping people in the Goodnight program, “It is rewarding when a patient is grateful.”

Abbey Hunter first joined the Hospital in 2019 as a Patient Family Advisor (PFA) volunteer when she was in grade 11. As a PFA, Abbey has been involved in a number of Hospital initiatives and committees, particularly in the Women and Children’s program, and last year she began volunteering in the Child Life and Goodnight programs.

When Shae Coffey started volunteering, she hoped the experience would develop her bedside manner since she wanted to become a physician. Although she now plans to become a Physiotherapist, she says the experience has been rewarding. “I thought I’d just be offering snacks, but it’s 75 per cent social. A lot of people are from out of town, and I like talking to people. I feel I’m making a difference.”

Abby Mazzuca joined the Goodnight team in 2022 with plans to one day work as a nurse. She says she enjoys the patient interactions and knowing that through her role, she can turn their day around.

Caroline DiFelice also started volunteering in the Goodnight program last year and plans to start Nursing studies this fall. She says the experience has helped her get familiar with the health care environment and patient experience and allowed her to interact with both patients and health care staff.

Volunteer Program: Wayfinding

Suzanne Gustafson is a volunteer with the Wayfinding program.  Suzanne is an active person who has always enjoyed dealing with the public.  As a recent retiree from the City of Thunder Bay Lottery Licensing Department, Suzanne worked with over 130 charitable organizations and wanted to give back to her community through volunteering.

Suzanne started volunteering with the Hospital during the beginning of the pandemic and since has completed over 400 hours.   Every week Suzanne provides support to patients and staff as a Wayfinding Volunteer.  Suzanne says, “I love getting my steps in and the opportunity to meet and connect with both staff and patients!”   This volunteer role gives her the opportunity to do what she loves when she’s not spending time with her grandkids.

Based at the Main Entrance, Wayfinding Volunteers have been helping to create a positive and welcoming first impression at this Hospital to all Patients and Care Partners by:

  • Greeting out-patients, visitors, and staff;
  • Giving directions to out-patients or visitors, personally escorting them, if needed;
  • Transporting out-patients or visitors by wheelchair, as required;
  • Delivering items for patients to the Nursing Stations;
  • Locating, sanitizing, and returning wheelchairs to the main lobby.

Suzanne is one of the first people you see when you come in through the main doors and always makes herself available to help out.  We are so thankful to have someone as passionate and enthusiastic as her!

Volunteer Program: Hospital Elder Life Program

The Hospital Elder Life Program of Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is proud to highlight our volunteer Christine Hyder.  HELP is a delirium prevention program that aids in the improvement of cognitive and functional outcomes in patients 65 and older. HELP achieves this by having trained volunteers facilitate interventions that prevent delirium, which includes orienting patients to their surroundings, facilitating activities that keep them cognitively active, encouraging fluids and keeping them mobile within the limitations of their physical condition.

Christine was selected to be featured because of her dedication and ability to improve our patient’s experience here at TBRHSC.  If you talk to Christine after completing her weekly shift with HELP, she always has a story about how she connected with a patient.  She truly makes everyone she meets feel comfortable and has empathy for patients and their families.

Christine is friendly, kind and truly enjoys getting to know each patient.  These qualities were evident from her first shift with HELP.  She possess all the qualities of an outstanding volunteer.  Thank you for your commitment and dedication to our patients Christine!

Volunteer Program: Event and Ticket Sales for the Foundation

The Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation (the Foundation) would like to introduce Sandy and Barrie Rooks, event and ticket sales volunteers for the Foundation. They have dedicated countless hours volunteering for the Foundation over the last 5 years, with most recently selling 50/50 tickets in our pop up store at ISC. Sandy says “A main reason why we volunteer for the Foundation is because it’s for such a good cause and helping raise the funds for equipment at our Hospital benefits everyone in our city and the surrounding areas”.

However, aside from the Foundation, they also volunteer and support other organizations within the community such as Thunder Bay Christmas Cheer, they demonstrate ballroom dancing for senior homes and are very active members in their church.

Apart from volunteering, they teach ballroom dancing, bowl in a league, enjoy walking and love spending time with their 11 grandchildren. Sandy and Barrie’s dedication to the Health Sciences Foundation has affected our community through helping to raise money for better healthcare in Northwestern Ontario and by helping put the tools needed in the hands of our medical professionals. We are very grateful to have them both part of our volunteer family at the Health Sciences Foundation.

Many other outstanding individuals volunteer their time with the Health Sciences Foundation. Their combined efforts help ensure the success of fundraising events and initiatives. Each volunteer is valued and celebrated as a champion of healthcare in our community.

Patient Family Advisor: Kathy Smith

I enjoy volunteering as a Patient Family Advisor (PFA) at TBRHSC. As part of the PFA Council, I like the variety of challenging tasks and the respectful, multi-disciplinary teamwork. Most of all, I like working from within to explore solutions and to see how PFA input improves patient experiences at our Hospital all the time.

After retiring from Confederation College in 2012, a colleague suggested I join the large, actively engaged group of Patient Family Advisors at TBRHSC. I have always believed in living life with purpose and my new life’s chapter as a PFA affords me that. I, and my fellow PFA’s, work with clinicians, physicians, administrators, and researchers to improve the patient experience for all. PFA’s share their lived experiences to support and strengthen the Hospital’s sincere commitment to Patient & Family Centred Care by identifying situations that can be improved and working with all staff to come up with solutions to improve the patient experience at TBRHSC. In fact, TBRHSC is the first and only Hospital in Canada to receive a Leading Practice Award in Patient & Family Centred Care (PFCC) from Accreditation Canada.

As a patient and as a care partner, I have been impressed by, and grateful for, the high quality of care received. Every experience at TBRHSC has been exceptional: the attention to patient education; the compassionate care and communication; the safe discharge summaries; the Care Partner Liaisons during Covid; the cleanliness and delicious meals. I have personally seen good ideas transform into better action plans and I continue to be inspired by the many positive, helpful changes in care resulting from PFA feedback.

My PFA journey at our Hospital includes serving on the PFA Council, as the PFA for Cancer Clinical Research Centre and as past-Chair of the Patient Family Cancer Partnership. Another exceptional PFA adventure has been as a patient partner in research – co-designing an aid to consent to research for intensive care patients with COVID.

My focus on conveying issues and concerns important and unique to our region has seen my role expand to include the “Expert Panel for Virtual Primary Care Health Guidelines” and the “Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Creating Remote Access to Clinical Trials” with Ontario Health.

Senator John McCain said, “We have a duty to serve a cause greater than ourselves.”  For me, that cause is healthcare and the patient experience.  I am confident lending my lived experience, thoughts and voice is bettering those for my family and for all, and I am thankful for all of the hard-working TBRHSC staff and administrators who make our PFA Council so strong, so vital and so respected.