A Look at a Leader: Susan Schwarz

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In this edition of A Look at a Leader, we highlight Susan Schwarz, the Volunteer Coordinator at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

Without knowing it, Susan Schwarz – the Volunteer Coordinator at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health – spent most of her adult life preparing for her current role. Susan began her career training as a social worker in a hospital in London, England. Afterwards, she returned to the United States to spend the next 10 years as a social worker at a hospital in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

As Susan had children, however, her focus changed and she volunteered in the schools. A move to Ohio for her husband’s work landed her a job coordinating mentorship programs with a community agency. Once her children were grown, Susan followed her husband to Indiana, once again for his work, and embarked on a new journey.

“When I moved to Indiana, I recognized that retirement wasn’t for me,” Susan recalls. “So I began working at IU Health’s Methodist Hospital and then moved on to Saxony Hospital as part of the team that helped open that hospital, working in guest relations. Just over a year ago, I came to Riley Hospital for Children as the volunteer coordinator.”

One of Susan’s main responsibilities is to recruit volunteers. “Recruiting is a dream,” she says. “We are so fortunate because there are so many people who want to dedicate their time and service. Our volunteers come from every walk of life - former patients, family members, community organizations, students, and community leaders – and they all want to give back to Riley. It is almost impossible to express how important our volunteers are to the patient experience and how much appreciation is felt for their contributions. It is a privilege to work with them. ”

Susan not only recruits volunteers, she interviews them, places them in their positions, orients them and serves as their human resources contact. In her role, Susan maintains all of the record keeping and reporting for the volunteers, as well as a relationship with each one. She also oversees the “regulars” – those volunteers who have spent years making regular visits to children at the hospital.

Susan relies on the regulars to bring smiles and consistency to the children’s lives. For instance, trained storytellers can change details instantly to create a perfect tale for each child. The pet therapy program is full of loving dogs, handlers and assistants who visit many areas of the hospital. And the “birdhouse volunteers”, a woodcrafter and his crew, visit frequently with wooden birdhouses and other toys they have crafted.

“These programs are extraordinary,” Susan explains. “I’m passionate about them because they are very significant, individualized programs that have been implemented and sustained by such talented and giving individuals.” 

When not at work, Susan enjoys visiting her children and grandchildren, who live throughout the country and dining out with friends.  She has a real passion for travel, with her Swiss-born husband, and loves the experience of meeting new people and staying off the beaten path.

-- By Gia Miller

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