SNEAK PEEK: Nolan, second from right, visits the new waiting area with volunteers.

On Nov. 11, the hospital’s Gray Surgical Family Waiting Area moved into a newly-renovated space on the second floor of the Yawkey Building. This move paves the way for critical expansion of the Electrophysiology Lab on the first floor of the Gray Building.

“Although we are moving to a new physical location, the volunteers remain the true heart and soul of the Family Waiting Area,” says Jackie Nolan, director of the Volunteer Department, which oversees the program.

The Family Waiting Area was established more than 30 years ago under the leadership of Maeve Blackman, former director of the MGH Volunteer Department. The early years involved paper-tape communications between recovery room personnel and a volunteer sitting at a desk in a hallway. Today, the volunteers offer a combination of personalized and state-of-the-art support within a dedicated waiting room area. There, families are kept informed of a patient’s progress and doctors can personally and privately communicate surgical results. From the outset, the aim of the program has been to make families feel a part of a patient’s surgical process, from pre-op to their arrival in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit or Intensive Care Unit.

MGH Volunteers are responsible for supporting a diverse population of more than 2,000 family members, friends and other visitors each month. The team of 36 volunteers is responsible for keeping families up to date on the timing of procedures and the location of the patient. Tracking is done via Epic, the electronic medical record, and in partnership with the surgical liaison nurse, who circulates throughout the operating rooms.

“The ongoing contributions of the Family Waiting Area volunteers can’t be overstated,” says Nolan. “They are the point of contact for so many of our patients and families when they are at their most vulnerable, and they truly make a difference every day.”

Advances volunteers have led over the years include the introduction of multi-modal interpreter services, a recovery room Perioperative Family Liaison support program, on-site escorts, and online reporting and waiting area redesigns to enhance traffic flow and comfort.

The Yawkey Family Waiting Area will be open weekdays from 8 am to 5 pm. After 5 pm, families will wait in the Maxwell & Eleanor Blum Patient and Family Learning Center.