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When Rose Feldsher began volunteering at Einstein Medical Center, John F. Kennedy was president, the Dick Van Dyke Show debuted on TV and the average annual salary was $4,087.
It was 1961. Feldsher started “making rounds” in the hospital – delivering water pitchers, passing out mail, running errands for nurses and tending to the loved ones of surgery patients in the waiting room.
She kept at it for 50 years. Last year, about 500 people lent their time and talents to Einstein. Feldsher was the longest-serving among them.
“My approach to life is it is better to give than receive,” Rose said. “It was a good opportunity.”
Now 90 years old, Rose is ready to retire.
“It’s time to quit while I’m ahead.”
Rose’s volunteer career started after her husband had surgery on his gall bladder. While he was hospitalized, she spent hours in the waiting room, feeling alone and fretting over the outcome. He turned out to be fine - but the experience stuck. She thought being a calm presence for people in that situation would be a nice thing to do and called Einstein to enlist as a volunteer.
In the years since, Rose has tapped that source of empathy many times in the waiting room of the Fridenberg Memorial Surgical Floor. It’s a busy place where emotions can run high. Rose affectionately refers to it as “my lounge”.
“Sometimes you go over and sit down and talk to them a little bit: tell them ‘don't be concerned, you are in good hands, and everything will be alright.’ Try to make it as light for them as possible, because if anyone has ever been in those shoes, you know a little bit can go a long way sometimes,” Rose said.
Patients can stay for hours, and even spend the night, in the room. Rose sits behind a counter directly across from the elevators. She greets people as they come in and answers questions they have about the progress of their loved ones.
Staff say she’s a warm, calming presence who will be hard to replace.
Recently, the hospital added a large flat-screen monitor that tracks patients’ whereabouts by identification numbers that correspond with names on Rose’s clipboard.Even with the arrival of the monitor, Rose continued to make her rounds and give family members updates in person.
Armed with a clipboard, she walks briskly through the swinging double doors to the operating room, where she checks in with the staff on duty and makes notes of any changes. She continues on to the waiting area, where she passes on the updates to loved ones.
Not a fan of the computer, Rose relies on pen and paper, though she thinks the monitor does serve a purpose.
“It gives them something to concentrate on and take their minds off of things a little bit,” she said.
Rose has seen her share of changes in her time at Einstein. When she started, the Tower building (where her lounge is located), didn’t exist. The operating rooms were in the basement. Two people staffed the hospitality lounge (Rose handles it alone). The coffee makers have been replaced by vending machines.
Her schedule, though, has never budged.
An early bird, she has faithfully shown up on Friday mornings between 7:15 to 7:30, driving from her Elkins Park home to the front door of the hospital, where the valet staff greets her by name as she hands over her keys.
Rose is looking forward to spending time with her four grandchildren and two great grandchildren. The family will travel to Hawaii for a vacation this winter. In April, Rose will be honored at an annual luncheon for Einstein’s volunteers.
Though Rose’s run officially ended in November, the volunteer office hadn’t found a replacement for her. So she said she’d come back and help out if needed.“Perhaps I might have spoiled them,” she said with a smile.
Learn about other ways to make a difference at Einstein.