Hospice Volunteer Stories: Training to Serve
Hospice volunteering is a deeply meaningful experience for many. Motivated by a genuine desire to bring comfort, peace, and care at the end of life, hospice volunteers can have a tremendous impact on the lives of patients and their families.
More than 400,000 hospice volunteers provide more than 19 million hours of service each year, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Trained according to national standards for hospice volunteers, they are essential members of the hospice team, whether offering compassionate support to patients, caregivers and families, or administrative help behind the scenes.
Connecting at a Vulnerable Time
Direct volunteers provide companionship directly to patients and families in their homes or assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. By engaging in conversation, playing an instrument, visiting with a pet, or simply sitting quietly nearby, hospice volunteers meet patients where they are on their health journey and help them live life to its fullest.
Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care values its several hundred volunteers and prepares them to serve with an intensive training program designed to educate and instill confidence and a sense of comfort for both volunteer and family.
Their contributions are so important that Crossroads has elevated the role of recruiting, training, resourcing, and coordinating the activities of volunteers to a management-level position, says Sherri Bickley, CSW, M.Th., Vice President of Patient Support Services.
“I feel it’s very important to prepare volunteers to serve hospice patients because not everyone is comfortable with end of life,” says Laura Haigler, volunteer manager for Crossroads in Atlanta. “We want to give our volunteers all the tools and education they need to thrive so they can provide companionship and support to both the patients and their families.”
Becoming a Hospice Volunteer
Crossroads volunteer training starts with an in-person interview and orientation session. This is an opportunity for potential volunteers and Crossroads staff to get to know one another and explore the volunteer’s goals and interests.
Volunteers learn about Crossroads’ special programs such as the Gift of a Day, which brings to life a patient’s vision of a “perfect day.” Or Crossroads' Veterans Recognition activities, which are special patriotic ceremonies held each Veteran’s Day and other times throughout the year to honor Veterans for their service to our country. They can also consider indirect volunteer work, such as lending administrative support, helping with mailings, or assisting with logistics of special program activities.
The foundation of Crossroads volunteer training is a full understanding of the hospice philosophy of care, the belief that every person has the right to die free of pain and with dignity, and that families and loved ones receive the support they need to cope. Hospice care involves a holistic, team-oriented approach to medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support tailored to an individual patient’s needs and wishes. Trainees learn their role and responsibilities as volunteers, and how they fit into the care team.
Through in-person training sessions and self-study, volunteers are given an overview of the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of a patient and their family at the end of life. They are trained to communicate with patients and families and also to know boundaries as a volunteer when interacting with them – the dos and don’ts of helping them manage feelings of grief, loss, and bereavement.
“The work is intimate and intense,” Sherri Bickley says. “Training is imperative to help volunteers be successful and to ensure excellent care for our patients.”
With patient and family safety as the top priority, Crossroads performs background screenings and tuberculosis testing for all volunteer applicants. Volunteers are also fully trained on HIPAA regulations, patient and family rights, and nursing facility protocols, where applicable.
A Welcome Visit
After completing the mandatory in-person and online training modules, direct volunteers are introduced to their first patient by a volunteer manager who leads the visit. This gives the new volunteer a chance to learn the process hands-on and model the manager’s behavior. Sometimes new volunteer trainees “shadow” more experienced volunteers for a period so they can gain confidence and feel comfortable in their supportive role.
“This is such a delicate time for our patients and families, so it is very important to train our volunteers,” says Ashley Green, a volunteer manager who oversees 130 volunteers at Crossroads in Northeast Ohio. “We want them to feel comfortable and empowered in their role to better assist our patients and their family members.”
To learn more about hospice volunteering, visit our website or give us a call at 1-888-564-3405.
If you found this information helpful, please share it with your network and community.
Copyright © 2020 Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care. All rights reserved.