Volunteers are the heart of MD Anderson
All volunteer activities canceled until further notice
MD Anderson has taken a number of proactive measures to minimize risks to our patients and staff related to the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Given our vulnerable patient population and recent efforts to limit visitors on campus, we have canceled all volunteer shifts, volunteer orientation classes and the application for volunteering until further notice.
Volunteers are often called the heart of MD Anderson because they play an important role in our mission to make cancer history. Volunteers work alongside patients, caregivers, faculty and staff to help make a difference by providing comfort, hope, support and education.
When joining MD Anderson’s volunteer workforce, you’ll become part of a diverse group of more than 1,000 onsite volunteers working in more than 70 volunteer-based patient programs and more than 2,000 offsite survivor and caregiver volunteers providing telephone support across the nation.
Our volunteers are:
- Compassionate, motivated, committed and trained
- Good communicators with a desire to help patients and caregivers
- Diverse in age, gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background
- Adults and college students available day, evening or weekends
- Some have had a personal or family experience with cancer
Ten years ago, I completed my first shift as an inpatient volunteer at MD Anderson’s Texas Medical Center Campus. For the past six years I’ve been volunteering at MD Anderson in The Woodlands, where I focus on making patients and caregivers more comfortable and helping staff members sort mail, make coffee for patients and pass out hats, pillows and blankets. I also chat with patients and caregivers while they wait for their appointments.
Here are four reasons why I volunteer at MD Anderson every week.
MD Anderson stands out from other hospitals
I became passionate about MD Anderson’s mission after a few close family members and friends were diagnosed with cancer. Since MD Anderson is focused exclusively on cancer, they offer many more cancer-focused experts and resources than other hospitals. MD Anderson doctors see more types of cancers in a day than many doctors will treat in an entire career.
Volunteering here helps me give back to this amazing cancer center and contribute to my local community. People often ask me, “Isn’t MD Anderson the most depressing place to volunteer?” Honestly, that couldn’t be further from the truth. MD Anderson is the reason my family members are living fulfilling, cancer-free lives. It’s a place of hope, where patients and caregivers are very thankful for the care they’re receiving.
I get to share my knowledge with patients
When I was a caregiver, I really valued advice from other people who’d been in my shoes. As a volunteer, I can pay it forward and share my experiences with new patients and other caregivers. I like to encourage them to remain proactive in the treatment process and remind them to use the time they have between appointments to relax. And because MD Anderson has so many resources to address everything from physical and emotional side effects to financial and spiritual support, I try to educate newcomers about all the services available to them.
The sense of fulfillment never ends
I worked as a registered nurse for many years and interacted with patients daily as part of their treatment or hospitalization. Volunteering at MD Anderson gives me the opportunity to talk to patients without worrying about nursing tasks. Both the patients and staff are all so grateful for everything we volunteers do. If I can help patients pass the time or let them know that I care about them by simply passing out coffee, hats, pillows or blankets, then I go home feeling good about my contributions that day.
I get to spread hope
It’s hard to imagine the light at the end of the tunnel when you or a loved one has just been diagnosed with cancer. Having volunteers who are either caregivers or survivors is a great reminder that it’s possible to go on to live a very productive life after cancer. My family is living proof of that, and I love encouraging others to keep fighting so that they, too, can enjoy life after cancer … thanks to all the amazing people at MD Anderson.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.
Each weekend Eunice Murage exchanges her white lab coat for a light-blue MD Anderson volunteer jacket.
Murage is a research scientist and belongs to a select group whose members work and volunteer at the cancer center. During the week she’s in the lab, studying ways to detect cancer early. On weekends, she’s visiting patients in their rooms, making their days a little brighter.
Current and retired MD Anderson employees who volunteer are highly valued for the time and energy they devote to helping others. All have their own reasons for wanting to help.
When my parents were undergoing cancer treatment in the 1980s and early 2000s, I didn’t know how to help them cope with their diagnoses. I was so overwhelmed with the medical aspects of their treatment that it never occurred to me that I should be also focusing on the little things that could make life easier for them.
So six years ago, I decided to volunteer as a tribute to them. I applied to volunteer at MD Anderson because I knew they treated cancer. I had no idea that I was going to become part of such an extensive support system for patients and caregivers.
Joining MD Anderson as a volunteer
During orientation, I learned all the different ways MD Anderson can help patients beyond treatment: the educational pamphlets in waiting areas and The Learning Center, the Integrative Medicine Center, the social work counselors and the support groups, to name a few.
And then of course there’s us, the volunteers. Before I donned my blue jacket, I thought volunteers only fielded phone calls and sat behind welcome desks. I didn’t realize that at MD Anderson, they also visit patients in the hospital, serve beverages and snacks, offer complimentary scarves to patients and much more.
When I volunteered at the Endoscopy Center in MD Anderson’s Main Building, I helped prepare exam rooms and provided support to staff as needed. Even though I didn’t work directly with patients, my responsibilities allowed nurses to spend more time with them.
Now I volunteer twice a week at the MD Anderson location near my home -- MD Anderson League City. The move not only shortened my commute to just 10 minutes, but it’s also allowed me to interact with patients.
Understanding the big impact of small gestures
Because MD Anderson League City is much smaller than the Texas Medical Center Campus, I frequently see the same patients every week and engage them in conversation. They seem to appreciate having someone take their mind off treatment, if only for a moment. And watching their courage as they fight cancer inspires me.
Volunteering has helped me realize that it doesn’t take a lot of effort to make a difference in a cancer patient’s life. Something as simple as offering a hot cup of coffee, a cold cup of water or a warm blanket can be enough to remind patients that they’re not facing this fight alone. Even if our only interaction is an exchanged smile, I feel I’ve accomplished something that day.
With every volunteer shift, I hope that my efforts bring each patient I encounter some peace of mind. I wish I’d been able to do more of this for my parents when they were undergoing cancer treatment, but I know they’d be proud that I’m doing it now for others who need that same support.
Editor's note: This blog post was updated in August 2019 to reflect the new name of MD Anderson's League City location.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.