Providing retail therapy, Marilyn Austin

April 27, 2017

April 23 to 29, 2017 is National Volunteer Week and the recognition is well deserved for the nearly 900 individuals who donate their time to help others at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC). Each year, LHSC’s Volunteer Services holds an appreciation event where all volunteers are thanked for their work and those who have milestones over five years are recognized with a Long Service Award.

This year’s Long Service Awards theme will be “Memories of the Past” and there will be 80 volunteers receiving long service award pins, starting from 5 years up to 30 years of service. For some, volunteering provides an opportunity to continue to help others and stay connected even after retirement from LHSC.

Marilyn Austin has spent a majority of her time since her graduation from nursing at South Street Hospital in 1967 at London Health Sciences Centre and spent the final third of her career practicing nursing in infection prevention and control, a growing specialty area. 

Before returning to LHSC in a part-time role before her retirement, Austin moved abroad to Saudi Arabia with her husband, a medical consultant, to work in health care. Once there, the couple encountered one of LHSC’s first international medical trainees. “We were delighted to see LHSC’s reach and impact as a teaching hospital,” she says. 

Austin joined LHSC’s Auxiliary following her retirement after fondly remembering the Auxiliary volunteers at South Street Hospital. “They were always pleasant and welcoming. I missed my colleagues and plethora of dedicated staff I worked with. Volunteering with the Auxiliary was an opportunity to stay connected, but I still wanted to help patients and visitors,” she explains.  

Austin is openly empathetic and as a former caregiver, feels comfortable in the hospital environment. Receiving her five year pin for her volunteer work in the Auxiliary run Boutique at LHSC’s Victoria Hospital, she enjoys the intimacy that comes with helping customers. “For some inpatients, shopping in our boutique gives them a sense of freedom, control and normality. Shopping, even just browsing, can provide an escape,” she elaborates. Like many hospital volunteers, she also has a keen eye for spotting visitors with questions and who are likely in need of direction. 

During her shifts, Austin continues to wear her infection control hat by ensuring the hand sanitizers are full. She also makes sure to thank customers for helping support the hospital. “The revenue generated from our shops, which are fully operated by volunteers, directly supports the hospital. I want our customers to know they are making a positive difference too.”

Marilyn Austin