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  Volunteer Spotlight: Margaret Nassar
Employee Spotlight: Milton Powell, Team Leader, Volunteer Services

National Healthcare Volunteer Week at Children’s National Medical Center
Children’s National Medical Center’s volunteers have played a vital role in caring for and comforting our patients since we opened our doors in 1870. Children’s National volunteers are passionate about doing what’s best for our kids and consistently put our patients and their families before themselves. Healthcare Volunteer Week is our chance to recognize these dedicated individuals who touch the lives of our patients and their families on a daily basis.

To learn about volunteering at Children’s National please visit our Volunteer Services page.

Volunteer Spotlight April 2012: Margaret Nassar

Children’s National Medical Center values the important roles volunteers play in caring for patients and their families. Acts as simple as reading a story, playing a game, or greeting a family can make a big difference in a child’s and family’s hospital experience.

Margaret Nassar, a volunteer with Children’s National, knew shortly after her son was born that one day she would become a volunteer. “My son had emergency surgery when he was two weeks old,” she says. “There was another baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with us who just cried and cried. He didn’t have any family to comfort him. I decided at that point that when I was able, I would volunteer in a children’s hospital so I could hold the babies who didn’t have anyone to hold them.”

With a professional history as a medical assistant in pediatrics, Nassar started as a patient care volunteer in the oncology unit with the Patient Care Volunteer Program at Children’s National in 2008.  Now, four years later, Nassar does a little bit of everything. “I start by greeting families and children in hallways and clinics as I make my way to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I go there first to hold babies or help the nurses attend to the crying ones.  Then I go to Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and then to the hematology and oncology department. I spend the rest of my day there with the kids and their families.”

Nassar admits that volunteering in a children’s hospital can be difficult emotionally. When she started her volunteer training, she requested to not work in the oncology department, because she was concerned it would be too emotional for her. But the oncology department needed volunteers, so Nassar agreed to give it a try. “And I loved it,” she remembers. “I have learned a tremendous amount from these children. They are as sick as can be and yet they want to play and read and spend time together. Yes, the work can be sad. But it’s also so gratifying. There’s not a more satisfying feeling than having an infant look up at you and smile or have a child come up and hug you and say, ‘Thank you for playing with me.’ It makes you just feel so good inside.”

Children have always been Nassar’s passion. One of her favorite volunteer memories from Children’s National was assisting with a special “prom night” for the children.  Formal dresses, suits, jewelry, and shoes were donated by the community, and “a few days before the prom, the kids were invited to come to a special room and pick out their outfits. They all came to the prom dressed to the hilt! Three- and four-year-olds all the way up to teenagers who had missed their proms because of their illnesses. It was their night to shine!” The children were encouraged to bring dates, and most of them brought their parents. “And the kids would say, ‘I brought my hero as my date,’ ” recalled Nassar.

When asked whether she would encourage others to volunteer with Children’s National, Nassar didn’t hesitate. “Volunteering at Children’s National gives you a whole new look at life. You see life through a child’s eyes. They teach you what’s important and how to not be afraid. They really put everything in perspective.”

Employee Spotlight April 2012: Milton Powell, Team Leader, Volunteer Services

Like many of our employees and volunteers, Milton Powell’s relationship with Children’s National Medical Center began long before his first day on the job.  In his case, much earlier: Elementary school.
While in grade school, Powell served as a volunteer on the “It’s Wise to Immunize” campaign, a program that educates the public about the importance of immunizations, provides vaccinations and links families to primary care providers.  “I thought, this is a really cool and interesting place! And they have a bear who’s a doctor!” said Powell. “Years later, I remembered that magical feeling, and I wanted to give some of that magic back to the kids here and retain some of it for myself as I grow.” In 2004, Powell joined Children’s National as an employee, and today, he is a team leader in our Volunteer Services department.
Managing volunteers at Children’s National is no small task. During the past year, our organization was host to more than 940 volunteers who spent more than 60,000 hours of their time making a difference in the lives of patients and their families. Powell’s workdays usually consist of coordinating volunteer schedules, leading tours, and also accepting and distributing donations for the patients and families. From patient care to the Pre-Surgical Tour Program, Powell and the team behind Volunteer Services are responsible for a wide variety of programs and services that help to boost spirits and alleviate some of the stress associated with a hospital visit. 
Volunteer Services can be quite a busy place, but Powell never forgets who he’s working for. “When I wake up in the mornings I think about helping the children and their families and that helps me on those days when it’s really tough to get out of bed,” said Powell. “I try to bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the job overall. When I’m interacting with patients and families I try to give them as much energy as I can.”
One of Powell’s duties is escorting celebrities, musicians, and professional athletes around the hospital while they are visiting patients. Powell recalled giving a few D.C. United soccer players a tour when they came across a young patient who was playing a video game in one of the playrooms. “He was playing a soccer game, and I asked him what team he was using,” said Powell. The patient said “D.C. United,” turned around, and saw the players from the team standing in the playroom  “He couldn’t believe it; he was so excited,” said Powell  “Moments like that, where we truly brighten the child’s day, are what I love most about working here.” 
Children’s CEO, Dr. Kurt Newman’s vision for “re-imagining how we care for kids” encourages employees to never forget who we’re caring for, think differently, do what works better, and develop creative connections. It’s facilitating positive connections that Powell loves most about his job at Children’s – getting the chance to connect our patients and their families to people who genuinely want to help them, whether they’re volunteers or professional athletes. Powell is passionate about helping patients, families, visitors, and staff make creative connections and takes a holistic approach to his role as a tour leader in the hospital.
“I’m able to bring individuals who come in to see one specific aspect of our hospital, whether it’s patient care, advocacy, research, or education and introduce them to other specialty areas. I’ll bring a research-focused visitor and expose them to some of our therapy areas so they can see first-hand some of the patient care that we provide in addition to the research,” said Powell. “We’re very well-rounded and have our hands in a lot of different places and I think bringing people in and showing them all the different aspects of what we can offer is key.”
April 15-21 is National Healthcare Volunteer Week, a time where healthcare organizations around the country take a moment to appreciate the selfless work of volunteers. “While we celebrate the great work of our volunteers this week, I’d also like to celebrate Milton. His devotion to our kids and volunteers is evident in every aspect of his work and Children’s National is so thankful to have such a bright, talented, energetic individual on staff,” said Terry Orzechowski, executive director of Consumer Affairs and ombudsman at Children’s National Medical Center.
Powell’s pride in the volunteer staff at Children’s is instantly evident as his face lights up at the mention of National Healthcare Volunteer Week. “I just want to thank all of our volunteers who give their time, effort, and energy to helping our patients and our families here at Children’s,” said Powell. “Without them we really would not be able to have such a positive effect on the patients and families lives and I’m very appreciative of having them here!”
Get involved! Learn more about how you can become a volunteer at Children’s National Medical Center on our Volunteer Services page

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