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Sue Svensson and Sue Adams’ story

Friday, 29 July 2016

Sue Svensson and Sue Adams’ story

Mater volunteers Sue Svensson and Sue Adams share more than the same first name. For the past three years, they have worked side by side every Wednesday morning from 7 am to 10 am as ‘ambassadors’ at the volunteer information desk at the main entrance to Mater Hospital Brisbane (MHB).

As ambassadors, they offer a friendly smile to all who walk through the hospital’s front doors. However, they do more than simply greet visitors: they help them find their way around Mater’s large and complex South Brisbane campus. They also do more than simply provide directions: they walk patients to appointments and visitors to see family and friends in hospital.

Sue Adams describes their role as providing a door-to-door service.

“From the moment we ask, ‘How can I help you?’ we are happy to stay with them until they get to where they need to be.

“Although they might enter Mater through the MHB front door, their appointment might be across campus. For example, they might need to get to Mater Private Hospital Brisbane. This means taking a lift up to the next floor, taking a walkway over the road dividing the campus, taking another lift when they get to the building across the road, and then navigating the link to MPHB. Some people could get lost.

“When we arrive at their appointment we check to make sure they’re in the right place, as they’re not always sure where their appointment is. If they’re having a test, they might not be sure which hospital it’s in, so it’s always best to check when we arrive,” Sue Adams said. 

Sue Svensson adds that it is important not just to escort a patient to their appointment but also help ensure they can find their way back.

“I always give them directions so they can find their way back to the car park or the bus stop. With a campus this size and with the number of hospitals and departments we have, it’s easy to lose track of where you are. But if they get stuck, there are volunteer ambassadors at the other end to help them,” Sue Svensson said.

The two Sues hit the ground running at 7 am, with many people coming in early for day surgery or simply arriving early to ensure they are on time for an appointment.

“Early in the morning, we also see people who have come from out of town. They might have just flown in and arrived by taxi, so they’re not only dealing with finding their way around the hospital, but around the city,” Sue Svensson said.

Being able to help visitors find their way around Mater is something that attracted Sue Adams to the ambassador role.

“I lived in Hong Kong for 15 years and I used to see tourists on the street, and could see that they didn’t know where to go. I had no hesitation in going up to them to ask, ‘Can I help you? Where do you need to go?’

“I’ve also travelled a lot and I know what it’s like to go somewhere and have no idea where things are,” Sue Adams said.

Sue Svensson and Adams meet patients and visitors experiencing a range of personal situations, some of which can be very stressful. As they spend a few minutes walking them to their destination, they try to put them at ease.

“Many people are a bit flustered because they’re running late and are worried they will miss their appointment. I always tell them not to worry; they’re not going to miss their appointment. I’ll get them there,” Sue Svensson said. 

“Then you get the people who are in very stressful situations such as, ‘My husband came here in an ambulance last night and I need to find him’,” Sue Adams said.

“In those situations, the most important thing we can do for them is to take them to reception and stay with them until the receptionist has been able to locate their husband. We then take them to see their husband.”

They see many new faces every day but also enjoy having a chat with a few ‘regulars’.

“There are some lovely ladies who come regularly for outpatient appointments and bring their knitting or embroidery with them to keep them busy while they wait. They enjoy showing me their latest projects,” Sue Adams said.

Some faces will always stay with the ambassadors.

“There was a cancer patient who used to come in regularly for treatment. She always asked if her wig was on straight and if her glasses were sitting on her face so that you couldn’t tell that she’d lost her eyebrows,” Sue Adams said.

“She had to send photos to her mum, who lived overseas, and she hadn’t told her she had cancer because she didn’t want to upset her. I always told her she looked lovely. I just wanted to make her feel a bit better and give her a bit of confidence.”

Sue Svensson has volunteered at Mater for 18 years and has seen many changes, but the Mater Values have been a constant throughout that time.

“The Mater Values have always been impressed upon us. In our volunteer role we can demonstrate the Values by being as helpful as possible, and providing comfort and compassion, to patients and visitors in the few minutes we spend with them,” she said.

At the end of their shift, both Sues leave feeling a bit tired—“I wore a pedometer once and clocked up 13 000 steps in three hours!” Sue Svensson said. However, both leave feeling fulfilled. 

“Other hospitals don’t offer the door-to-door service that Mater offers. By simply walking someone to their appointment, rather than giving them directions, I know I’ve helped make their day a bit easier. And that’s a good feeling,” Sue Adams said.

Sue Svensson feels she has become a more positive person since she became a Mater volunteer.

“I came here to give, but I always take home more than I give. Always!” Sue Svensson said.

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Tags: Mission, The Heart of Mater, volunteers

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