No One Dies Alone (NODA) … Compassionate Companions at USC-VHH

Compassionate Companions pictured from left are Carola Brennan, Marcie Sabatella, Teri Rice, Tina Marie Ito, Pat Skerry, Cindy Gilbert, Ruth McNevin, Lisa Kessidjian, Andrea Terry and Heidi Klint.

Founded in 2002 by Sandra Clark, a registered nurse at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene, Oregon, the award-winning program NODA (No One Dies Alone) has inspired hospitals around the U.S. and beyond to create similar programs. NODA was created to offer companionship and support to patients who are nearing death. The program provides a compassionate presence for individuals who have no family or close friends to sit with them at the end of life.

With statistics showing an increase in the number of patients who are outliving family and friends, hospitals across the nation are responding to this need. USC

Verdugo Hills Hospital has embraced the NODA program with a specialized group of volunteers, “Compassionate Companions,” who are trained to be at the bedside of dying patients who may otherwise be alone. Patients in need are identified by their health care team when death is expected within a few days and typically when no family or friends are nearby. The health care team then organizes a NODA vigil to provide a reassuring presence at the bedside of the dying patient for as long as needed.

While companions provide a loving presence to unrepresented individuals, they can also be available for respite care to allow families to take a break and briefly leave the hospital, perhaps for a shower or a much-needed nap. Family members can leave knowing that a trained volunteer is there and their loved one is not alone. Through this program, USC Verdugo Hills Hospital is able to provide a caring and empathetic presence for all patients.

Just as witnessing a birth brings deep emotion and a celebration of life, so too does being present at someone’s last few moments on earth, giving these volunteers a sense of honor to keep company with these patients. Some have called it a life-changing experience and, with the support of the nursing staff, Compassionate Companions are able to help provide patients with a most valuable of human gifts: a dignified death.

Those who would like more information or have the desire to become a Compassionate Companion volunteer at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, contact Bridget Berg, director of Volunteers and Patient Experience, at (818) 952-2211.

Submitted by Tina Marie Ito, chair, USC Verdugo Hills Hospital Foundation