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NODA Volunteers Bring Comfort, Honor Lives

NODA 2013

The No One Dies Alone (NODA) program was started at St. Peter Hospital in 2009 to provide individuals with a dignified and compassionate death. The program is coordinated by Frankie Shepherd, with the help of 115 volunteers. These volunteers make themselves available during the day and all through the night, providing bedside companionship for dying patients who are alone, or providing respite to family members or friends who need to take time away to rest or manage other responsibilities.

The program has grown to serve Providence Mother Joseph Care Center, a long-term care facility nearby St. Peter Hospital. NODA program coordinator, Frankie Shepherd, coordinates vigils for each patient served, working quickly to schedule volunteers. Most patients dying without family or friends present will receive between six to 24 hours of vigil. But, Shepherd notes, “We recently held an 86-hour vigil for a patient, drawing on 22 different volunteers.”

Tracey Lang, a Providence employee for 26 years, first heard about the No One Dies Alone program in 2009 shortly after her grandmother had passed away. She says, “Being a NODA volunteer is a perfect way for me to honor my grandmother.”

Carole Rodgers has volunteered at St. Peter Hospital for 20 years, and became involved in NODA early on. She says, “I wasn’t able to be with my father when he passed away, and being with a dying patient is always a moving experience. You might be the last touch they receive; the last voice they hear.”

Lang adds, “When the patient has a family member or friend living, we often leave messages to the family about the vigil, and the families deeply appreciate those notes so deeply. NODA Volunteers and community organizations also make pillowcases which are placed under the patient’s head or arm during a vigil. When the vigil ends they are given to family or friends. “The families appreciate these beautiful handmade items as they are often the last tangible item to be with the patient,” says Shepherd.

Hospital staff also appreciate the NODA volunteers, as they become the eyes and ears of the family when they can’t be there. These dedicated individuals can notice pain or changes in the patient and appropriately inform nursing staff.

Shepherd says, “The experience is often as deeply touching for our volunteers as it is for the families.” Since being established, the program has served more than 212 patients.

The NODA program is solely supported by donations to Providence St. Peter Foundation.