Breyanna Hiebert began volunteering at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital as a teenager. She is now pursuing a career in social work in a medical setting.

Volunteering at Nanaimo hospital leads to health career

NANAIMO – Breyanna Hiebert's experience at Nanaimo hospital inspired her social work education.

Ever since childhood, Breyanna Hiebert knew her career would involve helping others.

“I wanted to have a direct impact on making people’s lives better,” she said.

Her mother, a former hospital volunteer, encouraged Hiebert to start volunteering at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital when she was 15. Hiebert has been a valuable part of the NRGH volunteer team since then. She also volunteered at Royal Jubilee Hospital for a year while she was studying at Camosun College in Victoria.

The 22-year-old Langara College student is now on track to become a social worker in a medical setting, largely because of the positive experience she has had volunteering with Island Health. She is still volunteering at the NRGH Auxiliary gift shop and is now the volunteer lead for the NRGH Emergency Department’s Discharge With Dignity program.

Discharge With Dignity began in May 2016, when emergency staff started collecting gently used backpacks, filling them with items such as socks, hats and toiletries, and giving them to vulnerable patients who need them. When the Emergency team asked for help with the backpack project, word spread quickly. Island Health employees from NRGH and many other sites sent hundreds of donations. Soon after that, Hiebert took on the role of Volunteer Lead.

“When I interviewed Breyanna for a volunteer role I had a feeling that the Discharge With Dignity program would be the perfect fit,” said Jennifer Doyle, manager of volunteer resources for NRGH, Dufferin Place and the Nanaimo/Ladysmith Health Unit.

“She had a wonderful attitude, was excited about studying social work, and was truly interested in helping people using her skills and experience.  We were in the early stages of building the program, and she was instrumental in putting together the original backpacks to be distributed from the emergency department. She was proactive in looking for donations, and quickly meshed with emergency staff and management.”

Through the summer months, Hiebert spent three hours a week volunteering at the hospital auxiliary gift shop and four hours a week with Discharge With Dignity. She estimates she spent about two hours per shift filling backpacks to send out into the community.

“In the future, we want to spread Discharge With Dignity to other Island Health sites,” she says. “It definitely is needed in Nanaimo. I think it is really important, not to just give a person the donation but to show we care.”

Although Hiebert is based in Vancouver during the school year, she is continuing in her volunteer role. She is volunteering remotely from Vancouver and will come home to Nanaimo frequently. Her goal is to expand the Discharge With Dignity program by reaching out to community donors and organizing partnerships with Nanaimo-area schools.

She is quick to answer when asked what she likes best about her role. “For sure the best thing is knowing the impact on patients,” she said. “That, and making connections with other staff and volunteers, and getting the community involved.”

Anyone interested in volunteering at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, Dufferin Place or the Nanaimo/Ladysmith Health Unit please contact Doyle at jennifer.doyle@viha.ca.

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