Students volunteer with phone calls during stressful time.

Medical students have signed up to make patient support calls during these stressful times.

Annie Ballén, George Blankenau, Alexandra Fiedler, Tyler Kirkland, Chris Lindeman, Max Lydiatt, Abi Paudel, Johnathan Sayaloune, and Jared VanLandingham have volunteered to make patient support calls during the pandemic.

“We have received a lot of positive feedback from our patients,” said Bonnie Dollen, RN. “I’m sad to see it end. I think it provided that missing piece to our patient care.”

The volunteer should call the patient one time per week for a to up to 15-minute phone call depending on the patient’s responsiveness.  If the patient does not answer, the volunteer will leave a supportive message and try again later in the day. 

The goal of phone calls is to provide emotional support to vulnerable psychiatric patients but not to provide a clinical evaluation or service. Additionally, volunteers should express concern but remain calm and confident, listen actively, and encourage the patients to talk about how they are reacting to this time of social isolation and change.

If patient does not want to talk, a volunteer can offer to call him or her later. And most importantly, volunteers shouldn’t make promises to the patients that they cannot keep. The main goal is to serve as a liaison to the patient’s provider. 

With in-person visits impossible during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Psychiatry clinic staff has had to reschedule hundreds of appointments – postpone some and move most to telehealth visits. To help with this massive undertaking, numerous medical students have also offered much-needed help with phone calls.

Blankenau, Scott Irvin, Tori McKinney, Emily Royer, and Lydiatt have made dozens of phone calls.

Lydiatt started volunteering on the phones, moving to in-person visits to telehealth. Lydiatt started at Poynter Hall, but when employees began working from home, he started calling with his cell phone.

“I was surprised by the large number of people who said they were okay with (telehealth) and willing to do their part,” Lydiatt said. “I was expecting people to be mad.”

As a future doctor, he sees a lot of benefits in both in-person visits and telehealth.

“There are benefits with in-person visits. It’s good for people to get out of their house, and there are many positives with meeting in-person, but telehealth has a place, too. It’s a way to work with people who don’t have transportation.”

Due to the hard work of staff and volunteers, the Department of Psychiatry

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