Nurses on Wheels, Inc. is currently on the midst of an outreach mission, searching for several generous people in the Coastal Bend community to give their time and talent, to become volunteers and to help support vigil needs of their hospice patients.

According to their website, Nurses on Wheels, Inc. has been providing quality home health care in the coastal bend region since 1996, with a highly-skilled staff of RNs, LVNs, OTs, PTs and HHAs whom are committed to providing personalized hospice care for their patients. Also, Nurses on Wheels is a Medicare-certified hospice program; and because of regulations, that means that a certain percentage of their services must utilize and integrate volunteers.

"Medicare requires 5 percent volunteer participation. Whatever kind of services that we're doing; it depends on how many hospice patients we have, how much service we provide, how much we're billing out to medicare. Based on those different itemized payments that we're receiving, that's where we have to come up with the 5 percent volunteer services we need," said Nurses on Wheels' Volunteer Coordinator, Yvonne Garza.

Garza says that volunteers are considered, to a certain extent, employees of Nurses on Wheels, but without pay -- of course. Being on the nonprofit side, volunteers will not receive monetary reward for their donated time and talent; but instead they will gain the experience and the knowledge that comes from working closely with those in need.

"Volunteers provide comfort; they can sing with the patient, they can read to the patients, massage the patient's hands or brush their hair, and help feed them," said Garza. "They will not be providing actual patient care, like changing wounds. Their main focus is companionship. They are there to show support, and to be vigil."

Nurses on Wheels provides hospice care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Because of the sometimes overwhelming need for care, the volunteer program helps alleviate this.

"We have to be available for a hospice patient, because we never know what's going to happen, and they can call us at anytime. The volunteers, it's up to whatever the feel they want to give. Maybe they get close to the family, and they say to go ahead to call them at anytime. It's up to the volunteer with how much time they want to give," said Garza.

Thusly, Nurses on Wheels is searching for 25 volunteers to be interviewed, trained, and to be put to work immediately.

"What we're trying to do is to make sure we can provide excellent care for the patients and families. That's the main thing," said Garza. "Really, this is how it started. It was volunteers that started everything. It was just people that started taking care of the sick. That's what we're really trying to get back to; it's up to us as a community to take care of our community, you know?"

There comes a time when the need for hospice and home health care arises, and the volunteer program is there to help ensure that Nurses on Wheels can be there to see that their patients and their patients' families receive the proper care that they need. Their services are available to everyone that qualifies, according to their website, never discriminating against anyone on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, religious preference, employment, veteran status, marital status, origin of payment in admission, or access to treatment.

"These are our elderly; they're the ones that helped us to make Nueces County into what it is, from their hard work and dedication. I think we should give a little bit back, now that they're in their time of need. Some don't even have families to help take care of them," said Garza. "So we are really dependent on our volunteers to help be there, to help support."

As of yet, Nurses on Wheels hasn't seen much of a volunteer response from the community, but they have developed a partnership with the Corpus Christi Parks & Recreation Senior Companions Program. Nurses on Wheels will soon be a volunteer station through Parks & Rec. In the coming weeks and months, Garza will coordinate an outreach strategy, reaching out to local parishes and schools to impress on the community on the importance and need of volunteerism, especially through Nurses on Wheels.

further, Nurses on Wheels will have an information table set up outside of the Super Walmart on South Staples the weekend before Easter, on Saturday, Apr. 12 and Sunday, Apr. 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, Yvonne Garza can be reached by phone at 361-882-0181 ext. 114. or by email at ygarza@nursesonwheelsinc.com.

"I hope that people respond," concluded Garza. "I think this can really be something that can help them also, in their lives."