The face of dedication: 35 years and counting

The face of dedication: 35 years and counting

Jean McEachern’s contribution to St. Peter’s Hospital (SPH) is hard to quantify.

She has been volunteering there for 35-years, more than a third of her life. She visits twice each week. She has given over 19,000 hours of her time.


Jean McEachern wearing her 35-year volunteer pin
By the numbers, her dedication is obvious. But these figures don’t do justice to the incredible impact she has had on the hospital’s patients and staff.

“It is nearly impossible to measure the impact of Jean’s visits with patients,” says Joan Annibale, coordinator for Volunteer Resources at St. Peter’s Hospital. “Just imagine the compassion she has shown to so many over the years.”

McEachern recently received her 35-year pin in recognition of the three and a half decades she has contributed to Hamilton Health Sciences. She has spent most of those years volunteering in the Palliative Care Program, which she has been part of since it began.

Volunteer Jean McEachern with staff in the Palliative Care Program
Like all staff in the program, clinical manager, Carol McKenna, can’t imagine it without her. “Jean long pre-dated my arrival and she is an enormously well respected member of the team,” McKenna says.

As a palliative care volunteer, McEachern has often sat at the bedsides of patients during their final moments of life. “She is a very special person,” says McKenna. “She has an intuitive sense of how to be with our patients and families during very stressful times. She easily builds rapport with them and helps them focus on the here and now and enjoying themselves in the moment.”

McEachern sees her time with these patients as way to comfort them. “I wouldn’t want to be alone,” she says. “The hospital is so busy. Nurses don’t have a lot of time to spend with patients and families are so scattered around these days. I feel really useful.” She also appreciates the purpose and companionship her volunteering brings, since her own family is far away.

Jean McEachern volunteering as Mrs. Claus
Over the years, she has become a staple at many popular hospital events. She’s been a clown at a Hallowe’en party, Mrs. Claus at SPH’s annual Festival of Lights Celebration. A favourite of hers is the annual Urban Fishing Derby where she helps patients cast a line in the local community pool. She cherishes the moments she spends with patients when they’re doing the simple things they love. “The social part, the dinners. Doing all the different activities has really been a lot of fun.”

35-years in, McEachern has no plans to slow down. And staff at in the Palliative Care Program are grateful to hear it.