Natividad Medical Center celebrates its volunteer auxiliary

  • April 27, 2017

By Joe Truskot, The Salinas Californian  |  April 25, 2017

Their faces are familiar and friendly, their advice timely and helpful, their support of patients and family members is irreplaceable. For 57 years, the volunteer auxiliary at Natividad Medical Center has, as Nathan Fuentes, its executive director, said, “Put the human touch to what we do here.”

Beginning on April 23 and running through April 29, Natividad is celebrating its dedicated volunteers in recognition of National Volunteer Week.

“The number of volunteers at the county hospital fluctuates each year,” Fuentes said. “We have the same individuals year in and year out. Then we also have project-based volunteers and also seasonal volunteers. They are the ones who are doing community service or service learning projects. And once finished with their hours, they transition on. Normally, there are about 450 volunteers here.”

In 2016, the Auxiliary provided 51,546 hours of service to the hospital. These volunteers include young adults seeking work experience in a professional environment, college and high school students who have medical careers in mind, and retired seniors who wish to remain active and be of service to the community.

More than half of the volunteers are fluent in both English and Spanish. While the volunteers do not offer medical services, they perform a wide range of essential activities that make it possible for Natividad Medical Center to function and serve residents effectively.

Scores of visitors enter NMC every day. Volunteers at the information desk play an important role by assisting patients and visitors to access the hospital and its services.

“Volunteering is vital in helping to create a healthy community and providing valuable services to Natividad Medical Center,” said Dr. Gary Gray, chief executive officer of NMC. “Our dedicated volunteers provide thousands of hours of essential services to our hospital. We are extremely grateful and proud to honor our team of volunteers.”

The Volunteer Auxiliary also oversees and coordinates other important activities each year, to include concierge service to families in waiting rooms, Pet Therapy service, assistance with patient portal sign up, spiritual care, infant Cuddler Program, patient and specimen transport, staffing of the Gift Shop, clerical support for administrative offices, meal delivery to patients, guiding hospital tours, courier service within the facility, and sometimes just commiserating with patients or family members who are anxious or worried.

“Volunteers in the Cuddler Program,” Fuentes said, “are given more in depth training.” Neo-natal infant care requires a specific kind of human touch. “Most of the training is related to having the skills and ability necessary to ensure the safety of the patients. Cuddling is more than just holding them. Tactile stimulation is critical to the babies’ development.”

“College level students are often engaged in tasks that are supportive of physical therapy,” Fuentes said, explaining another area of the hospital where volunteers provided valuable services. High school students help maintain the equipment patients and professionals use to get muscles working again.

Many volunteers are needed to help with patient comfort activities. “That means passing out snacks and meals, general office work and clerical support in many departments.”

“We have on-boarding requirements for all volunteers,” Fuentes said. “That means an interview with me. Then they fill out an application. We conduct a background check. There’s a safety review of different measures and the volunteers take a written test. (Spanish is available.) Then, we go through the job description in detail.” This way there’s no confusion about what is expected of the volunteer.

Given the number of individuals visiting Natividad Medical Center and its labyrinthine layout, volunteers at the information booth can lend a great service explaining where one needs to go. Many volunteers personally escort people to their destinations. Most folks at Natividad are accustomed to visitors being lost and asking directions. We labeled our volunteer uniforms and actually have the word “volunteer” embroidered on them as friendly invitations to ask for help.”

Nathan Fuentes has been on board at NMC for 22 years and works tirelessly to find good volunteers for the hospital. He matches volunteer skills with jobs that need to be done.

Natividad Hospital was founded in 1885. Although the volunteer auxiliary was only formalized in 1960, the hospital has used volunteers since its inception. The Auxiliary achieved non profit status in 1962.

If you would like to be a volunteer, Fuentes promises flexibility in the hours, although most people are needed between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Owned and operated by Monterey County, NMC is a 172-bed, acute-care hospital. It offers inpatient, outpatient, emergency, diagnostic and specialty medical care. NMC provides more than 34,000 patient days of care each year and has more than 52,000 emergency department visits per year.

NMC is a Level II Trauma Center providing the immediate availability of specialized personnel, equipment and services to treat the most severe and critical injuries. NMC’s Trauma Center is a vital community service locally that saves lives and eliminates the need to fly critically injured patients to a distant trauma center. NMC is ranked No. 1 in newborn deliveries in Monterey County and is the only teaching hospital on the Central Coast through its affiliation with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). With a medical staff of more than 300 physicians, NMC’s mission is to continually monitor and improve the health of the people, including the vulnerable, in Monterey County through coordinated, affordable high-quality health care. For more information, please call 831-755-4111 or visit

For more information or to join the Natividad Medical Center Volunteer Auxiliary, call 831-755-4215 or email Nathan Fuentes at