By Your Side Portal

By Your Side: End-of-Life Vigil Companions

Reaching out with knowledge and compassion.

They come at a critical time for people who have no one by their side. They bring sensitivity and compassion, but most important of all, exceptional training in the practical, emotional and spiritual challenges of the end of life. They’re the volunteers of By Your Side. This innovative program fills a critical need. As a complement to hospice care, By Your Side volunteers are ready to serve, trying to ensure that no one who desires a companion dies alone.

By Your Side companions support those in the wider community who are at the end of life, primarily focusing on people in Skilled Nursing facilities and hospitals who have no family support. They come from all walks of life, respecting all beliefs and sharing a deep commitment to serve others.

Our mission is to provide these compassionate volunteers with the training and support they need to offer companionship and comfort to those who are dying.

By Your Side training covers palliative care, the dying process, spirituality, processing grief and loss, and understanding the fears and concerns of end-of-life care. Volunteers learn about working in clinical settings, providing self-care resources and creating support systems.

We give them the resources to be their best including educational tools, networking opportunities with other volunteers, and confidential gatherings to process experiences in small groups. They receive ongoing training and support for their continued growth and to help prevent caregiver burnout.

Once volunteers have completed our program, we also help place them with vigil partners at hospitals and long-term-care facilities.

If you would like to learn more about By Your Side or are interested in participating in our next training session, please call  Episcopal Communities & Services at (626) 403-1498.

Our Instructors:

The Rev. Sarah W. Nichols, MDiv
Director of Pastoral Care
Episcopal Communities & Services
Donald Gabard, PT, PhD
Chapman University
Pamelyn Close, MD, MPH
Director, Adult & Pediatric Palliative Care
LAC+USC Medical Center

"You will gain a great gift..."

“By Your Side training provided the ideal foundation for volunteering at a nursing home and serving as an end-of-life companion. There was a winning combination of factors that left me feeling well-prepared, satisfied and centered: an interactive approach that encouraged learning by sharing, a practicum placement after training and opportunities for follow-up. I would encourage anyone considering this to jump right in. You will gain the great gift of meeting wonderful people and making a real difference in their lives.”

- Megan Cooper
Cohort 1 

“The By Your Side training stood out from the other volunteer training I received because of the emphasis on the issues of the heart...not just for the patients, but for the volunteers, too.  The trainers found a way to meet every volunteer at an individual level and match each individual’s gifts. I feel so much more confident and effective about spending time with my vigil companion than I have felt in previous volunteer situations.  I am so grateful to the By Your Side training and support."

- Sharon Crandall
Cohort 2

“I wanted to thank you and tell you how inspiring it was for me to be a part of the By Your Side training. For many years I have participated in Hospice work, but now I feel a very high and mindful up-leveling of this work. The feeling is a sacredness that I have always felt was missing in the “doing” rather than the “being” of normal Hospice work and training. It is a real sense of By Your Side Vigil Companions as a ministry!”

- Martin McIlvenna
Cohort 1