Valerie Boroughs, RN, had a tough time retiring after being a nurse for more than 40 years.
“It’s part of who I am, so it was hard to give it up,” she said. Having first retired from Sarah Bush Lincoln in 2015, Boroughs missed nursing so much that she returned a month later to work as needed for another year. In 2016, she retired a second time to help care for her aging in-laws. She then signed on as a volunteer nurse.
Just two years later and Boroughs has been named Volunteer of the Year by the Sarah Bush Lincoln Volunteer Guild. She received the award in May at the Guild’s annual banquet. “I’m extremely humbled,” Boroughs said. “There are so many others who are so deserving.”
Maybe so, but those who nominated her feel Boroughs earned the award fair and square! One wrote: “Val works just as hard as a volunteer as she did as a nurse. She always has a smile on her face. The patients enjoy chatting with her and she helps provide the extra TLC we all need.”
Another co-worker wrote in her nomination letter: “Val is an excellent nurse and a great role model for how every nurse should be. She is always willing to go above and beyond to help out during our busiest times. She is very knowledgeable and the patients love her.”
As a licensed nurse, Boroughs explained, “I can do any of the duties I did before I retired.” She’s willing to help in any way that she can, which often includes taking vital signs, starting IVs, helping clean rooms, transporting patients and providing additional support or information to patients and families. She is grateful for the opportunity to serve while enjoying the added free time that retirement offers.
Every volunteer nurse must have an active Illinois license and a minimum of two years’ of active nursing experience and be CPR-certified. She must also complete competency training and volunteer orientation provided by Sarah Bush Lincoln.
Boroughs enjoys helping patients, comforting families, and easing the workload of fellow nurses and support staff in Special Procedures, where she worked before she retired. “Once you’re a nurse, you’re always a nurse. It’s not something that I can walk away from,” she said. “I know the staff and the routine in Special Procedures, so it makes me a much more valuable volunteer.”
Reminiscing about her career, she said, “There isn’t much I haven’t done. I tell everyone that I worked everywhere except obstetrics and behavioral health, but I saw a lot of that, too, while working in the emergency room.”
Boroughs became a nurse in 1973 and worked for nine years in various roles at hospitals in her hometown of Indianapolis, before moving to Charleston in 1982 with her husband, Brian.
That’s when Boroughs started caring for people in the Emergency Department at Sarah Bush Lincoln, where she worked for the next nine years. “I loved working in the ER,” she said. “I have such great memories. We were such a close knit-group.” She will never forget the compliment she received from a doctor. “He told me I was the best ER nurse that he’d ever seen,” she said. Boroughs distinguished herself in another way; while still in her 30s, she embraced her naturally silver locks – a look that became her signature style. “Everybody knew me by my white hair,” she said.
Boroughs is also remembered for taking care of employees during her 13 years as an Occupational Medicine nurse, though she also worked in Quality Management and as an EMS coordinator for Sarah Bush Lincoln. She later trained new employees in Employee and Organizational Development for several years before working her final years as a nurse in Special Procedures.
As a volunteer, Boroughs is quick to offer her assistance with an upbeat attitude and a smile. “I enjoy being an advocate for patients and helping them through the process,” Boroughs said. “I use humor a lot to help with anxiety; it helps ease the tension for everyone.”
As Boroughs models, volunteer nurses bring a wealth of information and experience to share with nursing staffs. “They have a vast amount of knowledge and they nurture and help our young nurses grow. It’s rewarding for everyone,” Volunteer Nursing Director Tracey McCord said.
Typically, volunteers are retired RNs who still want to offer their services for patient care. They may also be experienced nurses who have been away from nursing but would like to get back into their profession or young nurses who are raising families but who want to stay connected while maintaining their nursing licenses.
For more information about the Volunteer Nursing Program, contact SBL Volunteer Services at (217) 258-2500 or email cstoner @sblhs.org.
Volunteer Nurse Val Boroughs (center) with her former coworkers in Special Procedures (left to right) Courtney Croy, David Hunt, Todd Layton and Diane Dow.