Volunteers are the ‘heartbeat’ of Glen Cove Hospital


e hospital,” said Susan Rassekh, senior director of patient and customer experience at Glen Cove Hospital. 

National Volunteers Week, which started April 24, is a chance to honor the men and women who have dedicated personal time and energy to helping their communities. In recognition, Glen Cove Hospital gifted their volunteers a star for their hard work. 

“We believe that you guys are the stars of the hospital,” Brad Sherman, MD, medical director at Glen Cove Hospital, said when presenting the star. 

Mayor Pamela Panzenbeck was honored for volunteering at the hospital for at least 10 years. She has helped in the offices and was a member of the Glen Cove Hospital Auxiliary. During her time at the hospital, she said, doctors and nurses would check-in and offer help, making her feel that she was more than a volunteer. 

“It really is a true community hospital,” Panzenbeck said. “They never made you feel like you were just a volunteer.”

The hospital’s volunteers have the chance to work with doctors, nurses, and medical staff to bring warmth and compassion to patients and their families. Many can be seen working in the gift shop, various departments answering phone calls, assisting in offices, be floor aides, and transporting patients to their appointments. 

“They're very important to us because they change the dynamic for a patient,” Rassekh said. “It's somebody who's not your doctor, or your nurse coming in, just a regular person who's seeing this hospital through a different lens and sees a person not as a patient.”

Because of the pandemic, the volunteer program has had a rough time with only 12 of its volunteers returning. Before Covid, the hospital’s program typically had 50 volunteers with at least 25 sporadically joining throughout the year. Currently, the hospital is actively seeking more volunteers. 

“The incidence of Covid numbers really is dictating that,” Sherman said. “So, we have had volunteers coming back on a somewhat limited basis and we anticipate the [Covid] numbers continue to go down and we don't have another resurgence. We expect the volunteer program to be fully fledged again.” 

With coronavirus protocols still in place, volunteers have not been able to work in their pre-Covid departments in the hospital, such as in the emergency room. There is limited contact with patients. 

Even so, volunteers George Meyer, of Locust Valley, and Marion Robertson, of Oyster Bay, still find joy in their roles. 

“I enjoy being here,” Robertson said. “I have a satisfaction from helping people and the side benefit is [that] I've made some wonderful, dear friends that love.” 

Meyer, 88, has been volunteering at the hospital since he retired eight years ago. He comes in once a week for a few hours to help in the gift shop and transport patients between departments in wheelchairs. 

“If I'm going to volunteer with some nice people and professionals,” Meyer said, “this is a place to go.” 

As a former teacher for the North Shore School District, Meyer admitted that he sometimes sees his former students at the hospital. He said that volunteering brings purpose and accomplishments in helping the Northwell Health and Glen Cove community provide excellent care to individuals. 

Throughout her years donating her time to help the community as a leader for the Girls Scouts and tutoring, Robertson, 84, made the decision to volunteer at the hospital 23 years ago. 

She first started in the emergency room, where she helped feed patients, run errands, and handout blankets. “I spent 20 years doing that,” Robertson said. “Unfortunately, with Covid, I can no longer go back there.” 

For now, she is working in the gift shop that can be found at the main entrance of the hospital. 

The hospital also has a junior volunteer program for high school students, which offers community service credit and introduces students to different career opportunities by allowing them to choose from specialized departments. 

“It's exciting for us to be able to put those kids on a track,” Rassekh said. “I think it's important for young people to recognize that healthcare is a team sport.”

The junior volunteer program is seasonal and is on hold. However, the hospital is looking forward to reopening its program for students in the future. 

“It's just wonderful getting to really know the inner workings of the hospital,” Panzenbeck said, “and they treat all the volunteers so well.”