Mother Teresa once said that no one should die alone and that everyone should die with the sight of a loving face. Spiritual Care is making Mother Teresa’s words a reality at all Texas Children’s Hospital campuses, where unfortunately some of our patients don’t survive.
Most of those patients have loving family members or friends who are by their sides when it’s time for them to go but there are circumstances that don’t make that possible for everyone. For example, the family of a child who is rushed to our hospital for state-of-the-art care can’t make the trip or the mother of a newborn who remains inpatient far away and is the baby’s only family.
For patients such as these, it has typically been the care team’s responsibility to be there for the patient when they pass. The team’s other duties, however, don’t always make that possible. That’s why Spiritual Care has adopted the national, volunteer-centered program “No One Dies Alone,” which provides dying patients without family or friends available with a compassionate individual sitting with them at the time of death.
At Texas Children’s Hospital, that compassionate individual, called a compassionate companion, is an employee who has volunteered to be part of the “No One Dies Alone” program and who has gone through a two-hour training session that addresses the logistical and emotional aspects of being a compassionate companion.
When called to task, the volunteer’s expectation is simple: Quiet reading, perhaps holding a small patient or the hand of an older one. Being there is most important. The volunteer is invited to write in a journal about what happened during their shift. The journal will be given to surviving family or friends.
“The goal of the ‘No One Dies Alone’ program is death with dignity,” said Interim Social Work Manager Ellie Wallace. “Through this program, we can provide companionship to patients in the dying process who are truly alone, and in so doing, provide a gift of respect and dignity to another human being at the end of life.”
Spiritual Care is looking for people who are interested in becoming a “No One Dies Alone” volunteer. Below is some more information about the program and what your responsibilities would be as a volunteer. To sign up or for more information, please call Ext. 4-7223 or visit Spiritual Care’s website.
What is NODA?
“No One Dies Alone” is a national volunteer-centered program that was started at PeaceHealth in Eugene, Oregon in 2001 that has since been adopted for use at Texas Children’s Hospital. Its goal is to provide companionship and support for dying individuals so that no patient dies alone. To accomplish this, compassionate companions are notified by a volunteer phone coordinator to keep vigil. Compassionate companions will rotate through three-hour shifts until the patient passes. During the shifts, the compassionate companions can talk to the patient, hold hands or just be a comforting presence in the room. “No One Dies Alone” began at Texas Children’s Hospital because we believe that every person has worth. Dying is a time to remind individuals of their value to society. Compassionate companions do that as well as ensure that individuals are remembered.
Who can volunteer for NODA?
Any employee at Texas Children’s Hospital can volunteer. This can include students who are present at Texas Children’s Hospital for clinical training or administrative training.
What training is required to be a NODA volunteer?
We require a two-hour training session before you can become a “No One Dies Alone” volunteer. It will help address the logistical and emotional aspects of being a compassionate companion. Volunteer training sessions are held once a month.
How long would I need to commit for a vigil?
You are not expected to stay any longer than your three-hour vigil shift.
Do volunteers come in during all hours of the night?
Yes, the “No One Dies Alone” program is designed to provide the dying patient with continuous company until he or she passes. Volunteers will be scheduled for three-hour shifts until the patient passes.
I’m not religious. Can I still volunteer?
Yes, religious behavior is to only be initiated by the dying patient or family member and not by the companion. At the patient’s request or family members, you can find religious implements and sacred texts in the supply bag along with contact information for the chaplain. Regardless of your religion/non-religion, it should be noted that religious tolerance on both the part of the patient and compassionate companion is expected.
How will I be notified that a vigil is taking place?
Compassionate companions are asked to volunteer to be on call for three-hour blocks. If the program coordinator activates a “No One Dies Alone” vigil, the program coordinator will send an e-blast and begin calling the volunteers who expressed their availability for a vigil.
When are vigils activated?
- Vigils are activated by the program coordinator when patients meet the following criteria:
- Are on comfort care
- Are on a DNR status
- Are expected to die within 72 hours
- Do not have family or friends locally
- Do not have family and friends involved and present
Being a compassionate companion has been a very emotional experience. How do other people process and deal with it?
As a “No One Dies Alone” volunteer, you are privy to one of the most personal aspects of an individual’s life. We understand the significance of what you are experiencing and know the importance of connecting with other compassionate companions to discuss your experiences. Lunch meetings are held once per quarter to get feedback from volunteers. Another suggestion is that you find a way to record your experiences, whether it is painting, poetry or journaling.