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From car collision to Outstanding Volunteer: patient travels long road

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Erin Murphy, Volunteer

Erin Murphy, who won the Outstanding Volunteer award, shared his experiences and talked about the importance of the Volunteer Assignment Descriptions and Checklists project.

Winners never quit – rather, they find ways to adjust to a new lifestyle, to a new normal.

Erin Murphy, who won The Ottawa Hospital’s Excellence Award for Outstanding Volunteer this year, has done just that since a collision left him with catastrophic injuries. While stopped at a red light, his car was hit from behind, squishing him between two cars. His long journey towards his new normal began.

“I never imagined that from a 2010 car accident, a brain injury, five years of rehab that included a couple stints as a Rehab outpatient that I would land a rehab volunteer role and become a valuable member of the hospital’s team,” he said.

The Ottawa Hospital has helped Erin rebuild his life – first with medical care and then as a volunteer, enhancing patient care for others.

Due to his severe brain injury, Erin experiences headaches; balance and coordination issues; fatigue; sleep disturbances; sensitivity to light, noise, and movement; tinnitus and disorientation. He didn’t have long stays in the hospital, but he nevertheless spent a lot of time as an outpatient at all three hospital campuses.

In summer 2015, Erin started volunteering. He could work only a few hours once a week in specialized conditions. But his work in the vocational rehabilitation placement allowed him to contribute to a business environment and help conquer his cognitive limitations. Volunteering helped fill these voids, providing a routine to help establish ‘a new normal.’

“My accident was life-altering,” said Erin. “In addition to many cognitive and physical losses, it took away my routines, my career, my peers. I missed being part of a team to contribute and work with a purpose. Volunteering helped me re-establish all of this. It wasn’t about me, but I was contributing to a higher good for the community. Volunteering at The Ottawa Hospital has impacted many aspects of my life and helped make this ‘new normal’ full and whole.”

The Ottawa Hospital relies on about 1,100 volunteers to enhance patient care and help fulfill the hospital’s vision, mission, and values. But volunteers must be kept safe in their work – the same as for employees. If proper controls are not in place, volunteers may unknowingly be exposed to health and safety hazards such as viruses, bacteria, chemicals, radiation, falls and slips, and physical or verbal assault.

Erin worked with the Volunteer Assignment Descriptions and Checklists project, which was designed to improve safety protocols and clarify the “do’s” and “don’ts” for each volunteer role at all three campuses. Upon finishing his training with the Ontario Labour Ministry, Erin assessed more than 30 volunteer roles against 10-to-12 criteria per role to identify any unsafe elements. Then, he produced safe work procedure documents, which resulted in some of the tasks, duties and responsibilities being changed.

“Erin has grown and thrived and helped us with strategic planning,” said Sherri Daly, Manager of Volunteer Resources. “He has taken the lead on our Prescreening team to help design our processes and metrics, and much more. He is amazing.”

For his many volunteering contributions and his diligence in keeping volunteers safe from potential hazards, he was named the Outstanding Volunteer.

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