Lorraine McGrattan is the manager of the volunteer resources team and has been with Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) for 36 years. She’s been in her current role for 20 years and is also the past president of the Professional Administrators of Volunteer Resources – Ontario.
What do you love most about your role?
Of course, the people I work with is what I love the most. Before I got this job, I had a funny dream where I was surrounded by hundreds of people like a celebrity. So I knew I landed my dream job when I was appointed director in 2000. I’m energized and inspired by our diversity, our people and their stories. I realized many years ago the power of influence I had over the younger volunteers especially when they come back and express their gratitude. It’s rewarding when they grow up to have a family and career. On the other end of the spectrum, we have many friendships with our volunteers including our older volunteers. We feel their loss when they leave, or worse, when they pass away. It is a privilege to influence the voluntary sector at HHS through collaboration, partnerships and community.
Volunteers are highly transitional with a commitment of one to three years. Much of our effort is to provide a positive and rewarding experience.
What do you find challenging?
One of my main challenges is to ensure volunteerism is on the radar screen at HHS. Staff and volunteers have a solid relationship today but this took years of building and we always want to improve. We regularly communicate with each other now and our volunteers are widely respected by many for what they do for patients and visitors. Another challenge is volunteer tenure. The reality is volunteers are highly transitional with a commitment of one to three years. Our younger volunteers build resumes while the older volunteers are busy with travel, grandchildren, physical activities and other commitments. Much of our effort is to provide a positive and rewarding experience. The volunteer role is different than it was in the past. It takes a special person to fill many of the requests we get. This takes time and with over 200 placements available, recruitment is always a priority.
Describe a typical day.
My job is unlike most at HHS and that’s what motivates me each day. I attend many meetings and get involved in initiatives to represent close to 1,400 volunteers. We have volunteer resources staff at all our hospitals and they manage our volunteers. I lead our group to standardize best practices across the sites and can be a touch point for any concerns. Whether planning, managing budgetary tactics, human resources issues, inquiries or daily operational issues, the people change the landscape each day. Basically, it is my responsibility to provide opportunities within our community, connecting programs with roles designed for mutual benefit.
I attend many meetings and get involved in initiatives to represent close to 1,400 volunteers.
Tell us about your most gratifying experience at HHS.
On a personal level, it was when I confronted my public speaking discomfort, which I needed to do to be heard and make a difference. HHS employs thousands of intelligent people who could make a significant impact if given a voice, but they may hold back due to fear or lack of opportunity. I started a toastmaster club at HHS because this fear was the only thing holding me back from advancing my career. I was tenacious enough to force myself outside of my comfort zone. My goal was to become more skilled at managing uncomfortable situations.
Professionally, I was most grateful for the work I did as a care clown. My name was Mary Go-Round. Years ago, I started a therapeutic care clown program. While training some of our volunteers, one of them got sick. Without hesitation, I donned my clown persona and visited her. Little did I know, my visit impacted the stroke patient sitting next to her. I gave her one of my juggling balls to pass from one hand to the next. She did that and we were both elated she could juggle. I will never forget this exchange.
What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about your role?
People are always surprised to learn I oversee so many volunteers across multiple hospitals. Fortunately, in volunteer resources, the team dynamics are rich with diverse skill sets. We have a strong and supportive environment across all sites. My HHS colleagues are always amazed at our low turnover and sick rates. I’m very proud of that.