Twenty years of volunteering at LHSC: Gord Duncan’s story

Gord Duncan, Volunteer, London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC)

April 17, 2023

April 16 to 22 marks National Volunteer Week. To celebrate, we’re exploring the volunteer journey of four longstanding LHSC volunteers. Follow us this week as we learn more about the volunteers who make Team LHSC ‘Stronger Together’.

In 2003, Gord Duncan was preparing for retirement from a 40-year ministry in The United Church of Canada. Having visited hospitals, senior homes and nursing homes as part of pastoral ministry through many years, it seemed natural to care about individuals as a volunteer in a health setting. He decided to inquire about volunteer opportunities at the Volunteer Office at University Hospital, and recalls “It was the enthusiastic welcome by the staff that encouraged me.”

Through his monumental twenty years as a volunteer, Gord has mostly volunteered in the Emergency Department (ED), which he describes as both an interesting and sometimes challenging experience.

While health care saw a great deal of change over that time, so too did Gord’s volunteer role.

“The responsibilities in the role changed greatly through the years, morphing from task-oriented to patient-centred emphasis, which I found very fulfilling. This allowed me more personal contact with patients and their families,” he describes.

When Gord began, volunteers in the ED were tasked with putting together registration packs containing numerous sheets of critical forms and documents for patients. However, as time went on they were further integrated into the ED and able to have more direct interaction with patients. After several years Gord found himself helping patients in the ED feel welcomed and heard in an unfamiliar or stressful situation while they waited for care.

When COVID-19 began, volunteers were withdrawn from in-hospital service in March 2020 as a safety precaution during the first wave of COVID-19. Gord recalls that it was an easy decision to return when the opportunity opened to do so.

However, he now found himself volunteering in a different setting: the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Western Fair Agriplex. He remained true to the values that have always worked, and remained steadfast in his approach to working with patients and staff, explaining that “a friendly, calming, respectful, open approach has always served me well.”

Since April 2022, Gord has been volunteering in the Lab Test Centre at University Hospital, welcoming patients and assisting them with questions while they await their tests.

And for all he’s given, Gord still feels he’s gained so much: “I've gained far more in volunteering than what I've given through the years. I enthusiastically encourage others to find places to volunteer their time and/or resources and therefore find themselves.”

The theme of 2023 Volunteer Week at LHSC is “We Are Stronger Together”; a nod to the teamwork required to make health care work best. When asked how he feels about it, Gord agrees it is appropriate, not only for volunteer work, but for life in general, explaining “it's who we need to be and what is basic to all of our life and work.”

“I've been privileged to experience this with professional staff, technicians, support staff etc. and this made it a no-brainer to return when the opportunity opened to do so. Being part of a caring team has been a blessing for me - feeling and knowing that a volunteer's presence is seen and valued as an integral part of a helping, healing process.”