The Angels of the ER program at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica is one of four hospital volunteer programs in the United States that have received the American Hospital Association’s 2011 Hospital Award for Volunteer Excellence (HAVE).

The awards, which are in their 28th year, recognize the efforts of volunteer programs and the positive impact their contributions have on the patients, hospitals, health systems and communities they serve.

Angels of the ER was created at Saint John’s nearly 10 years ago after ER Medical Director Russ Kino, MD, became aware that extended wait times and other issues in the hospital’s ER were impacting patient satisfaction, a hospital spokesperson said. The Irene Dunne Guild volunteer group formed the Angels of the ER program to provide comfort and support to patients awaiting treatment.

“Winning this prestigious award is such an amazing honor for our volunteers, Saint John’s and the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System,” said Grenda Pearlman, director of Volunteer Services at Saint John’s Health Center. “I have always known that our Angels of the ER program was special; that’s what prompted me to nominate it for the AHA HAVE Award. I am blessed to be a part of this program.”

The program “Angels” act as liaisons between patients and medical staff and help enhance the patient care of the ER by being sensitive to the emotional needs of patients and their families, the hospital spokesperson said.

“All volunteers are a gift, but the Angels of the ER are an exceptional group of people who make time in their busy lives to volunteer in a high-energy, stressful and action-packed area,” Pearlman said. “They ensure that our patients are heard, and provide extra (tender loving care).”

The program volunteers receive rigorous training and are involved in monthly ER staff meeting updates. In addition to assisting patients and their families, Angels support the ER in other ways, such as stocking and managing a Care and Share closet in the ER with clothes and shoes for patients in need, as well as providing toys for pediatric patients, according to the hospital.

The HAVE Award winners are recognized in four categories: community service programs; community outreach and/or collaboration programs; fundraising programs; and in-service hospital volunteer programs.