In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

November 10, 2015

Many Caring Hands Make Compassionate Work

By In the Loop

Volunteer Services began offering its Caring Hands hand massage program to patients back in 2006.The patient was scheduled for surgery at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus the next day. Her nurse, noticing the woman seemed "very anxious" about her procedure, contacted Mayo's Volunteer Services department and suggested a hand massage might help calm her nerves. "The woman indicated she was at a tipping point after dealing with cancer since 1984 in many parts of her body," volunteer Jeri Zimmerman says. "She mentioned she believed God doesn't give you more than you can handle, but she felt she was there."

Before beginning the hand massage, Zimmerman asked if the woman had a prayer shawl. She didn't, so Zimmerman offered to bring her one at the end of her shift. "She then lay back, closed her eyes, and relaxed while I completed the massage," Zimmerman says.

When she was done, Zimmerman left the patient's room and went to pick out a shawl. She went with purple, which turned out to be the perfect choice. "She told me purple was her favorite color and that the shawl would help give her strength throughout her treatment," Zimmerman says. "It looked beautiful on her."

Encounters like this have been playing out across Mayo's Rochester campus ever since Volunteer Services began offering its Caring Hands hand massage program to patients back in 2006 at Mayo Clinic Hospital's Methodist campus. Since then, Barbara Kermisch, coordinator, Methodist Hospital Auxiliary volunteers, says the program has spread as demand for the service has grown. "We're in every single part of this hospital and the outpatient clinics and Saint Marys," she told the Rochester Post-Bulletin back in 2012.

The program isn't limited to Mayo Clinic buildings, however. Volunteer Services Coordinator Susan Pronk says Mayo's Caring Hands volunteers have also recently taken their hand massage magic on the road for events at the Mall of America and Target Field. "We've also had Caring Hands volunteers give massages at Mayo events at the Wilson House, the Heritage Classic 5K Walk/Run, and many nursing events throughout Mayo to help care for the hands that care for our patients," Pronk says.

Regardless of where they're offering hand massages, Pronk says one thing's for sure: Mayo's Caring Hands volunteers enjoy their work just as much as those on the receiving end do. "The volunteers love this service and feel like they really make a difference in the lives of the patients they touch (literally)," she says. "In fact, we can't keep up with the demand and are in need of more volunteers who want to serve patients in this gentle, caring way."

If that sounds like you, contact Pronk at Then, be sure to share your comments (be gentle) below. You can use the social media tools to share this story with others.

Tags: Employee Stories, Mayo Clinic Volunteer Services

I was surprised when a volunteer came into my room and asked me if I would like a hand massage while I was waiting to go into surgery. It was wonderful! She talked with me and my husband and massaged my hands. It took my mind off of what was about to happen. This is a wonderful thing that the volunteers do!!

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