Mercy Health – Clermont Hospital welcomes retired nurses back as volunteers

February 1, 2022


Ruth Bailey retired after 38 years as a nurse, and she missed her days on the hospital floor, dealing with patients.

Mercy Health – Clermont Hospital in Batavia, Ohio, saw a need for its staff nurses to have more support, particularly for those chores that help a hospital run smoothly but don't necessarily call for the specialized training that nursing requires.

Enter the Retired RN Nightingale Program, an effort that was conceived before the pandemic began but brought very welcome relief to a COVID-19-weary nursing staff.


"I don't think COVID changed the program all that much," said Tracy Taylor, director of volunteer services at Clermont Hospital and Mercy Health–Anderson Hospital in Cincinnati. Both hospitals are part of Bon Secours Mercy Health. What has changed, she added, is how fatigued the nursing staff can become with the constant demands that the pandemic has brought.

Bailey said her time as a nurse gave her the ideal background to relieve the full-time staff from the needs that patients have that may not require highly specialized skills.

Ruth Bailey, a volunteer in the Retired RN Nightingale Program at Mercy Health-Clermont Hospital in Batavia, Ohio, is only too happy to relieve floor nurses by taking on routine tasks. Retired nurse volunteers feed patients, restock supplies and run errands to lighten the load on nurses.

"I'm excited to be able to give the staff the support they need," she noted. "If a patient needs their water refilled, a staff nurse doesn't have to stop to do that. We can do that."

Added Ann Owens, another member of the volunteer corps: "I've given a couple of baths, sat with a patient, made rounds to say hello as soon as I get there. If someone wants someone to do something like just check on a patient, I can do that."

Taylor said the volunteer program was adapted from a similar effort she heard about at another Midwestern hospital. Volunteers do not have to have active nursing licenses to participate. They can help with a number of tasks that enrich patient care yet may have to take a lower priority during hectic times.

The volunteers work four-hour shifts between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Slots are available seven days a week. Mercy Health – Cincinnati provides orientation and on-site training for those who are interested.

A volunteer nurse might feed a patient, assist with discharge phone calls, update whiteboards, visit with patients and families, restock supplies or run errands for a nursing unit.

"We do anything that would make anyone's job easier or that would make the patients' life a little easier," Owens said.

She left nursing in 1999 to join a law firm that specializes in defense work for hospitals — a job that she says could be just as stressful as working on a hospital floor. After she retired from the firm, she gravitated toward the volunteer nursing program.

"I thought that would be a good way to go back to something that I enjoyed, hospital work," Owens said. "Plus, I liked the idea of Mercy Clermont being a smaller hospital."

Both Bailey and Owens said that nurses on the floor appreciate their assistance.

"The first thing is to always listen," Bailey said. "I try to determine exactly what the need is — if it's something I can take care of, or something I need to reach out to the nursing staff to take care of. If I'm unsure, I don't hesitate to ask questions."

Taylor said Mercy Health is using a variety of techniques to attract more volunteer nurses, including encouraging current nursing staff to distribute flyers promoting the Retired RN Nightingale Program.

"A lot of nurses come from a family that had other nurses as well," she said, "so we thought that would be a good avenue to pursue."

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