You walk through a door that you’ve entered many times… only to be greeted by a giant wall instead of the lobby that had been the familiar path to your appointment.
For many patients and visitors, that’s what it’s been like these past few weeks since UConn Health’s main lobby closed for renovations. While they are greeted by the wall, fortunately for them they also are greeted by some helpful folks in blue jackets – UConn Health volunteers, at the ready to help people where they need to go.
“They’re shocked, they don’t even know if they’re in the right place or not, because it looks completely different than what they’re used to,” says volunteer George Ziewacz, who’s been volunteering in the main lobby area for more than eight years. “We have a diagram on our wall and we show them how to get to wherever they want to get.”
With the lobby closed, patients and visitors using the main entrance must take a detour to get to the elevators that bring them to the Connecticut Tower hospital floors, the Calhoun Cardiology Center on the second floor, and even the gift shop, which is accessible only from the hallway that runs along the Center Courtyard window. Some of the dental clinics have moved to the main floor, while others remain on the first floor and are still accessible via the elevator near the main entrance.
“Most people are understanding. Only very rarely does someone get real upset,” says Ziewacz, who volunteers eight hours a day, four days a week. “Some of them want to give me tips, but I tell them I’m not allowed to accept tips.”
When patients and visitors know where they’re going but don’t know how to get there, the volunteers will help them find their destination on a map, direct them on how to get there, and in some cases escort them some or all of the way as needed. When patients don’t know where their appointment is, the volunteers can retrieve the information by calling the information desk in the University Tower lobby.
“George and his knowledge of all areas along with his wayfinding skills have been instrumental in helping everyone navigate through the Main Lobby construction detour,” says Lisa Bartis, volunteer administration program coordinator. “The entire Volunteer Department has stepped up to help with wayfinding for all of our patients, families and visitors at both entrances.”
While wayfinding has been a major task for volunteers, they also assist with discharges, wheelchairs, mail and gift delivery, office work, the gift and thrift shops, new admission binders, and periodic checks of patient safety equipment and accessories such as lifts, slings and belts.
UConn Health has 280 registered volunteers, 90 of whom are returning to high school or college for the fall. More information about becoming a UConn Health volunteer is available at health.uconn.edu/donors-and-volunteers.