The Volunteer Program at Comprehensive Hospice and Palliative Care (CHPC) is an integral part of the holistic team approach of hospice. Volunteers are recruited, trained and supervised to meet the unique needs of our patients and families, giving them non-medical support in this time of end of life.
Volunteers are recruited from a variety of sources, including VolunteerMatch, local colleges and universities and flyers in various businesses. The volunteers go through a two-part interview process, the first being an informational interview with the Volunteer Coordinator (VC) where they may begin the application process. The volunteers then are interviewed by the management team who assist in assessing for appropriateness and add the confirmation of the volunteers being an important part of the team.
The multidisciplinary training is eight hours in classroom followed by eight hours of videos and written responses by the volunteers. The presenting team includes an RN, Social Worker, current volunteers and the VC. At the end of the training, the CHPC CEO comes for a final review and expression of gratitude for their participation. TB tests, background and reference checks are completed prior to volunteers seeing patients and on the first visit, the VC does introductions. Volunteers are encouraged to speak of their patients as “persons” rather than “patients” since they are not part of the medical model.
Needs assessments are completed services by the VC with all patients and families referred for volunteer. Those are compared to the Volunteer Preferences that all volunteers complete with the application. Great care is taken to best match the patients, families and volunteers so that all needs are met in the most appropriate way. Both volunteers and patients/families are encouraged to let staff know if there is a conflict or it just is not the right fit.
Volunteers are able to be companions to their people. They can read to, write letters for, play games with and do life review and reminiscing. . Volunteers can provide brief respite and sometimes are there for the needs of the family members. They cannot transport, give medications, lift, pivot, turn or feed. They cannot run errands for, do light housekeeping or cooking.
On-going supervision is provided to ensure the safety of the patients and the volunteers. Quarterly inservices focus on areas pertinent to hospice, enhancing their skills and reminding of the importance of self-care. Volunteers are encouraged to contact the Volunteer Coordinator or other members of the staff with comments and questions. Often communication from the volunteers is passed on to the patient’s team with responses sent back to the volunteer.
Following the passing of the volunteer’s patient, a debriefing meeting is held to review the volunteer/patient experience, celebrate the shared life and grieve the loss. Support is provided to offset burnout and continue to make the volunteer know their value.
Comprehensive Hospice and Palliative Care provides on-going means of thanking our volunteers and showing appreciation for the great work they are doing. As one volunteer stated, “I chose CHPC because I felt that there was always such a safety net for me, I felt well-taken care of.”