No One Dies Alone
(406) 438-2723, Vigil Coordinator
St. Peter’s No One Dies Alone program provides a reassuring presence to dying patients who would otherwise be alone and offers patients the most valuable of human gifts: a dignified death. No One Dies Alone (NODA) is a volunteer program to assist patients and their families during an end-of-life situation. A team of trained volunteers is on call at St. Peter’s Hospital, 24-hours a day, ready to serve at the patient’s bedside. NODA is for patients who are on comfort care, are on a do not resuscitate status and are expected to die. The goal of the service is palliative care, relief of the physical, emotional, and spiritual pain that burdens the dying and their loved ones.
NODA relies on the hearts of volunteers who bring life to the program. Compassionate volunteers who are companions to those alone in their dying speak of the experience as a privilege. The volunteers sit with the patient in a quiet and reflective way, supporting those experiencing the intensity of life as they face death. NODA creates moments of grace in a world that does not expect kindness.
St. Peter’s NODA is led by our vigil coordinator.The coordinator works together with numerous volunteers including nurses, physical therapists, a music thanatologist, and others. All volunteers go through a criminal and background check and substantial hospital training. St. Peter’s volunteers also received specialized NODA training from founder Sacred Heart Medical Center.
To activate the NODA service, a nurse contacts the vigil coordinator and a volunteer is called. The schedule is based on volunteer availability. More than one volunteer may sit with a patient. Volunteers are given a bag with CDs, a player, journal, and other supplies.
The History of No One Dies Alone
NODA was founded in 2001 by a critical care nurse at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene, Ore., and was started at St. Peter’s in 2012. The nurse said, “One rainy night, I had a brief encounter with a man who was one of my seven patients. He asked, barely audible, “Will you stay with me?” I said, “Sure, as soon as I check my other patients.” After vital signs, passing medications, chart checks, assessments, and bathroom assistance for six other patients which took about an hour and a half, I returned and found him dead and felt awful. It was okay for him to die as it was his time but he should not have been alone.”
This lonely death led the nurse to the notion of a volunteer companion program for hospital patients who would otherwise die alone. With the help of hospital administrators, she brought NODA into being. The program has won several awards and has inspired hospitals around the United States and beyond to create similar programs.
St. Peter’s is the only Montana hospital to incorporate the NODA program into patient care.