The No One Dies Alone Program Pairs Volunteers With Terminal Patients

Brilliance | Dec. 17, 2017

The fear of dying alone might plague humanity more than the fear of death itself. If you've ever had to visit a terminally ill loved one in the hospital, you've felt the importance of being with them in their final hours. But what about the patients who don't have anyone with whom to share their final moments? A nurse at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene, Oregon, found the answer.

In 1986, Sandra Clarke was working as a staff nurse at Sacred Heart when a frail, elderly man asked if she would stay with him. It was the end of Clarke's shift and she still had six more patients to check on, so she said she'd return later. When Clarke returned, the man had died, and he'd been alone when it happened. That's when Clarke vowed she would never have another patient die without someone by their side. Fifteen years later, the volunteer program No One Dies Alone (NODA) was born.

How does it work? According to the ModernMedicine Network, NODA is "a voluntary, unpaid phone-tree program" where volunteers sign up for a week of availability to stay with a dying patient. PeaceHealth, Sacred Heart's corporate organization, created a guide for other institutions interested in hosting similar programs. PeaceHealth requires a "two-hour minimum bedside vigil." Volunteers, or "Compassionate Companions," primarily consist of hospital employees and existing volunteer staff. The companions must go through several safety precautions, including a background check and six months of prior volunteer work at the hospital. NODA helps to relieve the emotional burden of having to leave a dying patient to attend other duties. Compassionate Companion Amanda Pilcher shared her experience with the Modern Medicine Network: "I too was at peace, yet overwhelmed by the life experience taking place. It was truly an honor and privilege to share these final moments with [this man]."

To learn hear more about NODA and learn about humanity's struggle with accepting death, watch the videos below.

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