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Volunteers to Assist Tulane’s Cancer Patients

October 30, 2007

Melanie N. Cross

Many patients visiting the Tulane Cancer Center Comprehensive Clinic for the first time are overwhelmed with fear and emotion. In an effort to better assist patients in taking the first steps toward becoming survivors, the Tulane Cancer Center is implementing a new volunteer program.


Located in downtown New Orleans, the Tulane Cancer Center Comprehensive Clinic is enlisting volunteers to guide and assist patients. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

“The goal of this program is to help reduce anxiety by utilizing volunteers to guide and assist our patients and their families through their clinic visits,” says Robert Gardner, patient navigator, counselor and coordinator of volunteer services for the Tulane Cancer Center.

“Unfortunately, anxiety is an unavoidable part of the process when someone is faced with a cancer diagnosis. The hospital environment can be a daunting challenge under those circumstances.”

The Tulane Cancer Center is seeking volunteers to provide a warm welcome to new and returning patients to the clinic waiting area, making sure they are comfortable.

The volunteer will be a knowledgeable and comforting escort to patients as they visit the diagnostic and treatment areas of both the Tulane Cancer Center and Tulane Medical Center.

Each volunteer will provide information and resources to patients and their families when requested and, most importantly, provide a friendly face and an opportunity for patients to share their worries, Gardner says.

Additionally, Tulane Cancer Center volunteers will assist with cancer screenings and health fairs, help the nurses and support staff with various administrative activities, and participate with Tulane Cancer Center staff in other community events.

“We’re especially looking for cancer survivors and caretakers who are eager to use their experiences to help others through situations they’ve experienced,” says Tim Pearman, clinical psychologist and director of the cancer center’s Patricia Trost Friedler Cancer Counseling Center. “Very often cancer survivors become mobilized to do something to make a difference, once their treatment regimens are complete. Their participation as volunteers will help provide hope to our new patients who are just starting out on a similar journey.”

The Tulane Cancer Center is reaching out via a letter campaign to select former patients who physicians feel might be effective and willing volunteers. Caretakers of current and former patients also can bring their valuable experiences to the aid and comfort of patients facing this challenge for the first time.

Volunteer recruits will participate in a formal application process that includes a background check, interviews with volunteer coordinators, a health screening and participation in a training and orientation program. All applicants must be at least 18 years of age. Cancer survivors must be at least one year beyond their cancer treatment.

Once approved, volunteers will be oriented and trained. They are asked to commit to one four-hour shift each week and at least 80 hours of service in a six-month period. All participants will wear green vests identifying them as Tulane Cancer Center volunteers. They will enjoy free parking, a lunch stipend and an annual recognition luncheon.

“Volunteers are valuable members of Tulane’s cancer care team and will serve our patients as complements to our nurses and physicians,” Gardner says. For more information, e-mail Robert Gardner or call 504-988-0844.

---Melanie Cross is manager of communications for the Tulane Cancer Center.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000