Escort messengers: 'vital to operations' at Manchester Memorial

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Thu., Feb. 14, 2013
Escort messengers Margaret Dwyer (left) and Lois Handfield (right) flank Diane Morey, manager of volunteer services at ECHN. Photo by Christian Mysliwiec.
Escort messengers Margaret Dwyer (left) and Lois Handfield (right) flank Diane Morey, manager of volunteer services at ECHN. Photo by Christian Mysliwiec.

In a hospital as large and fast-paced as Manchester Memorial, simply delivering a slip of paper between floors or seeing a patient to the door can be a tall order. That’s where the escort messengers come in.

A group of dedicated volunteers at Manchester Memorial navigate the halls of the hospital, helping to discharge patients, deliver medication from pharmacies, move equipment or any other task that needs to be done – and doing so with constant good cheer.

“If they need anything taken from one place to the next, that's us,” said Lois Handfield, of Andover, who has been an escort messenger for five years. Her friend, Margaret Dwyer, of Manchester, has been doing it for 10.

“This is very vital to operations during the day,” said Diane Morey, manager of volunteer services at ECHN. If the escort messengers are unable to discharge a patient, then the time-consuming job goes to medical staff on the floor.

Like any hospital, Manchester Memorial can seem large and intimidating to a newcomer. When new people come in to work at the hospital, they're first shown around by the escort messengers, who know every in and out of the building.

Volunteers usually do a four-hour shift once a week. On a typical morning, escort messengers can expect about 35 calls. An errand can be as long and involved as a patient discharge, or simply delivering a piece of paper.

Both Dwyer and Handfield are retired nurses. For them, volunteering at a hospital after retirement was a natural step. “A hospital becomes part of your blood,” said Dwyer. She had some hospital experience before volunteering, but later worked as a nurse in the Manchester school system. She always missed the hospital setting.

Handfield feels the same. “This is where I feel like home,” she said.

Their experience in a hospital setting also gives them a valuable advantage in their positions as errand messengers: total comfort in the hospital setting. “I think when some people walk into a hospital, they're just totally lost and bewildered,” said Handfield. “But it's certainly not intimidating if you've spent your whole life here.”

Handfield worked in the operating room as a nurse. While her career may have been confined to that particular floor, being an escort messenger has exposed her to the entire hospital community. “Having spent 40 years in a hospital, you get to know the doctors and nurses and that's it,” said Handfield. “Now I'm acquainted with a whole new level, because you talk to the people delivering lunches as you go through the hall, the girl with the cart with the sheets on it, the person delivering mail, the stockroom guys.”

Like Handfield, Dwyer is delighted to be able to meet all the people that keep Manchester Memorial running. And according to Morey, every one of them is a vital member of the team. “There's not a job in this hospital that doesn't affect patient care in some way,” said Morey. “Every single person in the hospital affects how ECHN runs and how happy our patients are.”

Of those people, volunteers are a critical segment. “Volunteers play a huge role,” said Morey. “There's no doubt in my mind that if we didn't have our volunteers, this hospital couldn't function.” With 400 to 500 active volunteers across the ECHN region, the time and effort freely given by volunteers is a crucial component to the health and well-being of thousands.

When she discharges patients, Dwyer sees the effect of this level of care. “I find that people I take out are so pleased,” she said. “They say, ‘I didn't like being in a hospital, but I was taken care of.’”

While Morey is blessed with many quality volunteers, more are always needed. Dwyer and Handfield both find a deep sense of satisfaction from their service, and would certainly encourage anyone with a desire to give to look into volunteering at Manchester Memorial.

Young volunteers have found their experiences extremely rewarding, as well. “I would encourage any student that has even an inkling of going into the medical field of any kind to volunteer some of their time,” said Dwyer. Morey had up to 60 junior volunteers last summer. Dwyer notes that often it appears that parents encourage the student to volunteer, who then come in “dragging their feet.” Before long, they are completely enthusiastic about serving.

“You feel like you take home more than you gave while you were here,” said Handfield.

To volunteer for this program, call 860-647-6841.

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