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Compassionate companion

New volunteer program to pair students with CSJ sisters at Carondelet Center

December 5, 2017

Students during training for the Compassionate Companion Volunteer Program

Committed to providing Mount students with meaningful ways to get involved in our community, the University’s Community Engagement department started a new program this fall that will provide a hands-on approach—quite literally—to caring and serving others.

The Compassionate Companion Volunteer Program trains students on the Heart Touch Method, which emphasizes “compassionate, therapeutic touch” to hospitalized and homebound individuals. Mount students will be paired with a CSJ sister at the Carondelet Center to provide love and support during planned weekly visits that last about an hour to an hour-and-a-half.

The first group of volunteers started their basic program orientation in the fall. They will receive more advanced training on hospice care and helping medically fragile individuals in January before they begin their volunteer shifts at Carondelet Center.

For students interested in hospice and end-of-life care, they can volunteer for two- to three-hour shifts, mostly at night when regular caregivers are away, to ensure a sister is never alone. This special type of volunteer service is well-suited for students who seek to understand the issues that affect individuals at the end of life. Volunteers will receive additional training for this component.

This program will run during the spring semester. All majors are welcome, but is especially ideal for students in the health field.

The Compassionate Companion Volunteer Program grew out of a partnership between the Mount’s nursing department, Community Engagement, the CSJ Institute, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Vitas Healthcare and Heart Touch. The purpose of this program is to deepen the connection between Mount students and the sisters, while providing comfort, support and a compassionate and calming presence to the residents of the Carondelet Center.

The program centers on a method developed by nonprofit organization Heart Touch Project, which was founded in 1995 by massage therapists who were volunteering with people with AIDS and quickly realized that caregivers tend not to touch those who are ill (and if they do, they do so without compassion). The project trains physicians, nurses, health aids, massage and physical therapists and chaplains on how to use an empathetic touch called the HeartTouch Method.

The training for Compassionate Companion Volunteer Program was developed by MSMU, Vitas Healthcare and Heart Touch. Students will be trained by Kim Terrill, director of community engagement at MSMU, along with the volunteer coordinator for Vitas Healthcare, a nurse who volunteers with Heart Touch and a Heart Touch staff member. Shannon Green, director of the Mount’s CSJ Institute, and a representative from the Carondelet Center will also be present.

For more information, contact Kim Terrill, director of community engagement, at kterrill@msmu.edu or call 213.477.2662.