Peg Coble

As a nurse, Peg Coble forged a long career helping others. In retirement, she's still at it.

Only this time it's as part of KVH’s Volunteer Bereavement Group, a small corps of specially-trained volunteers who work on-call providing emotional and spiritual support to families in crisis.

Because KVH Hospital is small, social service staff work during the day, when most patients are discharged from the hospital. “But we have families in crisis 24/7,” says Rhonda Holden, chief nursing officer and administrator of patient care services at KVH. To fill that gap, last year KVH put out a call for volunteers, a call that was fueled by the Patient and Family Centered Care Advisory Council.

Coble signed on.

A former westsider, she'd come to Kittitas County with her family in 1980. By then, her career already included time at several hospitals, including five years at Harborview in Seattle. In Kittitas County, work in a nursing home would be followed by 20 years with Hospice.

“People that are in Hospice don't have a job, they have a calling,” says Coble, a woman of deep compassion and strong faith.

For Coble, the Volunteer Bereavement Group provided a perfect niche. Volunteers take weekly turns on-call from 4 p.m. until 7 a.m. responding to the emergency room in the event of a death or traumatic event.

When a woman traveling through Ellensburg with her family suffered a heart attack at a gas station, Coble was with the family while the patient was stabilized at KVH Hospital before being transported to Yakima Regional's cardiac center. “I was able to help the family by explaining things, giving them directions to where she was going and information that would help them when they got there,” she says.

When a woman was brought in with serious injuries, Coble was at the family's side as doctors battled three and a half hours trying to save her life. “Her son and his fiancée were visiting from California,” Coble says. When the woman died, “I was able to counsel the son's fiancée about how to get him help with grief when they got back home.”

Grief training prepares volunteers to provide appropriate support in the midst of trauma, Coble says. “It's called companioning. It's no time to preach. There's a term called 'therapeutic presence.' You may just sit silently with them, or just sit and listen, let them talk and cry, give them a hug. Sometimes they want you to pray with them.

“Each family really dictates what happens.”