Life support

Volunteers at hospital coaching program provide patient outreach

The Supporting Engagement and Resilience (SUPER) Coach program at University Hospitals provides a unique experience for its volunteers.

Founded in 2013 by Dr. Nicholas Cohen, the program’s primary purpose is to help participating patients improve their health through motivational coaching.

The program targets patients from regional, underserved, urban populations who make 20 or more trips to the hospital each year. This is usually for chronic health problems.

According to Cohen, the program has already substantially reduced participants’ hospital visits.

By focusing on patients’ values, health goals and aspirations, volunteer coaches make the patients’ self-development their main priority.

Clarence Williams, a graduate student studying medical physiology, has been involved with the SUPER Coach Program since December 2013.

“It’s always fun to work with patients with different goals. You also develop relationships with a lot of different people,” Williams said. “You’re actually working with patients and helping them with health tasks. There aren’t too many other opportunities like this.”

Although Cohen believes the main goal for the program is to positively alter patients’ health habits, the program also provides a rare opportunity for pre-medical and graduate students to volunteer and interact with patients.

“It’s been a great opportunity,” Williams said. “You learn a lot. You get to see if you can actually talk to people in an empathetic way.”

Students interested in volunteering as coaches for the SUPER Coach program should contact the Volunteer Services Department at University Hospitals to submit an application and receive further training.