hospice home page logo







Great Ideas...Volunteers

Leadership Programs
  • Group Leaders
    To encourage networking and to assist the Volunteer Coordinator with the monthly collection of statistical information and to disseminate information, seven dedicated volunteers were chosen to serve as group leaders. Each group leader represents approximately seven volunteers. These volunteers are usually geographically close to one another. Once monthly the Volunteer Coordinator sends each group leader information to pass along to his or her volunteers. Each group leader contacts the volunteers in his/her group, recording hours, and passes on information, updates, and reminders. Volunteers also receive a monthly volunteer newsletter in conjunction with these calls. The volunteer group leaders also make up a volunteer advisory committee that meet intermittently throughout the year to discuss, strategize, and problem solve volunteer related issues. This assistance provided from group leaders/advisory committee members has made a tremendous difference in volunteer communication and involvement. Department of Sustaining Care, Swedish Hospital Medical Center Seattle, Washington

  • Establish a Council of Volunteer Advisors
    In order to encourage volunteers to assume more leadership and accept greater responsibility for their Hospice volunteer activities, we established a Council of Volunteer' Advisors (CVA).The CVA is made up of the four team captains plus two volunteers-at-large who were selected by the volunteers. A representative from our in-patient, nursing staff and the coordinator of volunteers and bereavement are also on the Council. At the CVA's request the coordinator of volunteers and chairs the monthly meetings. The CVA assists in a number of projects such as: teaching in the volunteer training program each fall and spring, assisting in biannual memorial services and bereavement follow-up, planning socials, preparing annual volunteer recognition reception, orientating new volunteers, providing input for program policies, suggesting topics and speakers for in-services, promoting more effective communication among volunteers and staff, participating in Hospice Month activities. Much of our volunteer work is done on our own acute care, in-patient facility at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. To facilitate scheduling of volunteers to work on the Unit we formed four teams headed by team captains. Each team is responsible for scheduling volunteers for a 10-day period. Volunteers and staff members are welcome at all CVA meetings. Northwestern Memorial Hospice Program, Chicago, Illinois
  • The Volunteer Representative Program
    As with many programs, funds are tight and the Volunteer Coordinator's is a half-time position. It is impossible for me to make a home visit with every Hospice family to introduce the role of the volunteer and assess the family's needs with this time constraint. We therefore developed the Volunteer "Rep" program. As Volunteer Coordinator I assign each new family to one of our four or five experienced volunteers who act as Volunteer Reps. The Reps then make a personal contact with the family explaining the roles and possibilities of a Hospice volunteer and exploring the needs of the family. This being done a few days after the family has come in to Hospice seems to be better timing than trying to explain the role of the volunteer along with all other services at the time of the "open." The Reps then report to me and together we assign a volunteer based on family needs, personalities, and time and geographic availability. Each week following our Hospice Team meeting I send patient reports to the Volunteer Reps. They in turn call the volunteer on each of "their" cases. In this way all volunteers receive a case update within a couple of days of the Team meeting. This helps volunteers to feel involved and validated as important components in patient care. It also keeps volunteers talking to one another between meetings enhancing their camaraderie and mutual support. The Volunteer Rep program enhances our services to Hospice patients and their families, it benefits the volunteers, and it expands the possibilities of the Volunteer Coordinator position! Sutter Hospice Care, Sacramento, California

Return to Great Ideas

Recognition and Support

  • Volunteer Recognition Dinner
    Annually, we have a dinner to recognize the work and commitment of our Hospice volunteers. This is a time to show our appreciation for the help of our volunteers. Hospice of Southwest Virginia, Wytheville, Virginia
  • Volunteer Banquet
    Each May recognizing our Volunteers' services. We also have a lot of Volunteers going into the homes and taking a bag of goodies for out hospice patient. As a Volunteer going to their homes for the first time they need to take these bags out as a get acquainted bag because a lot of patients and families are leery of volunteer services. Anonymous
  • Wellness Spiritual Care Retreat Day for Volunteer Recognition
    Select paid staff "volunteered" to create a day of healing and renewal for volunteers. First half of day included classes in: Chinese brush painting; clay work; massage and healing touch; meditation; inspirational music and literature; Tai chi; and grief group. After lunch, which was provided by the retreat site, we had a half hour of informal dance as a group. We moved into group activities which included visualization and a two-hour story-telling process. We ended the day with music and dance activities which helped volunteers bring closure to their day and allowed for expression of their feelings and experiences. Carondelet Hospice Services, Tucson, Arizona
  • Annual Coffee House
    Annual Coffee House for volunteers, who share musical talents, poetry writing, readings, book reviews. We provide refreshments. Hospice of the Panhandle, Martinsburg, West Virginia
  • Volunteer of the Month
    Encourage volunteers to turn in logs by having a volunteer of the month (the volunteer who turns in the most paper work)! This winner receives a gift certificate. Hospice of Morrow County, Mount Gilgad, Ohio
  • Volunteer Update
    This is a bimonthly newsletter (or more often if necessary) written by the volunteer coordinator and sent to all our volunteers: patient, bereavement, clinical and board members. The purpose of the newsletter is to keep all volunteers informed of the "happenings" in our program. I include in it a calendar of events for upcoming continuing education programs, meetings, fund raisers, special needs of families, etc. This is an informal means of communication. I use it also to congratulate volunteers on a job well done, to encourage participation in an event, to announce occasions in individual volunteer's lives (i.e. marriages, births, special vacations, death of a family member, etc.) Our volunteers care not only for their patients, but for each other as well. The Volunteer Update has been well received because the volunteers say they feel they know what is going on even if they have to miss the monthly volunteer meeting. Queen Anne's Hospice Volunteers, Inc., Centreville, Maryland

Return to Great Ideas

  • Regional Support Groups for Volunteer Coordinators
    This idea came from the Illinois State Hospice Organizational Volunteer Coordinator Committee. We divided the entire state's up by county and region and established Regional Support Groups for Volunteer Coordinators. These groups are self governing and feedback has been most positive. Hospice of Northeastern Illinois, Barrington, Illinois
  • Business Cards for Volunteers
    Business cards with a leather case for volunteers. Covenant Hospice Care Program, Urbana, Illinois
  • Thank You Notes for Volunteers
    After a volunteer has completed a volunteer assignment (patient care, fund raiser, etc.), they receive a thank you note from the volunteer coordinator. The cards were printed at the printers on parchment note paper and printed in gothic alphabet. The front cover shows a tea pot steaming and says "thank you." Inside states: "You recently have given of yourself through volunteering. Now it's time to take a little time for yourself." Glued on the top flap is a gourmet tea bag. This is a modification of another thank you note we came across. The volunteers really enjoy these cards. To office volunteers or others volunteering on a long term basis, they receive about twice a year to remind them we care and appreciate them....because we do! Hospice of Coshocton County, Coshocton, Ohio
  • Thank You Notes to Volunteers from Nurses
    Periodically, our RN's send brief, hand-written notes to volunteers (who have been "faithfully" involved with individual patient/families) acknowledging their good work and the importance of their involvement. In order to expedite this process, the director of volunteers will offer to address the envelopes and provide the notecards. Northwest Ohio Hospice Association, Toledo, Ohio
  • Thank You Letters to Volunteers from Physicians
    Following the death of a patient, I write a letter on behalf of that patient's physician thanking the volunteer for "whatever they have done" for that patient. The letter is then sent to the physician for signature and on to the volunteer. A copy of each letter is placed in the volunteer record. Volunteers enjoy getting the communication and this reinforces volunteerism to the physician as well. Henry Ford Hospice, Detroit, Michigan
  • Hospice Volunteer Retreat
    This retreat involves every person involved in the hospice team-volunteers, coordinators, nurses, social workers, bereavement personnel, religious, etc. We come together for an eight-our sharing, informative presentations and growing experiences. Our retreat is held in a quiet, wooded area which exudes a peaceful and harmonious feeling, joining our entire group together. The retreat enables the hospice team to relate ideas for further growth of the volunteers, as well as developing our organization to more fully recognize the needs of our patients. Topics range from pain control, welfare and insurance changes, to familial dysfunctions. The retreat is a great enabler of a smooth transition into our program - for both volunteer, and patients and their families. The retreat enriches our hospice organization professionally and personally. The seeds planted during this time helps us to grow the multifaceted team that continues to give the physically best care and emotionally provide the love and support needed by our patients and each other. St. Agnes Hospice, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
  • Annual Picnic
    Providing an annual picnic at a local park for volunteers, their immediate families, our staff, their families and this year, we invited members of our bereavement support groups. Merchants donate the food and prizes for bingo. Relays, sack races, water balloon battles, volleyball, badminton, horseshoes all make a fun evening. Families interact and it also provides an opportunity to recruit potential volunteers without them knowing you are recruiting. Because of this particular event we had two spouses state they would also like to volunteer. Kanawha Hospice Care, Inc., Dunbar, West Virginia
  • Volunteer Recognition Luncheon
    Our major volunteer recognition function is a luncheon held each year in November, National Hospice Month. Special gifts and awards are presented and all volunteers are individually recognized for their contribution to our Hospice Program. Also, our administrative staff each recognize the achievements of the volunteers and a Keynote speaker addresses the value of Hospice Volunteerism. We feel the uniqueness of our luncheon is the inclusion of survivors of past Hospice patients as honored guests and speakers. These individuals share their personal and poignant memories of their association with hospice volunteers and staff. This creates a more meaningful atmosphere in which the contribution of our volunteers can more realistically be appreciated by the assembled group of physicians, hospital staff, hospice staff, community leaders and members of the media. The Hospice of Northern Nevada, Reno, Nevada
  • Recognition
    At Hospice of Southwest Florida approached its 10th anniversary, we were seeking innovative ways to recognize volunteers and staff at our annual service-award events. We had changed our logo a few months prior to that time, and in keeping with our plan to apply the new corporate identity symbol wherever possible, it was decided to design new service award pins, using the logo as the single design element. Our most significant decision was to use the same pins for employees and volunteers, reinforcing the interdisciplinary team concept that is at the core of hospice service. The pins are die cut in the shape of the logo and the result is a beautiful piece of jewelry, particularly enhanced with the addition of a precious stone. One year to three year service warrants a solid gold pin; three to five years service - a gold pin with sapphire stone; five to ten years service - gold pin with a ruby stone; and ten years to 15 years - a gold pin with a diamond center. In future years as we have volunteers reaching 15, 20 or 25 year milestone. We will have jewelry pieces made from the pin as special awards. Volunteers and employees get frequent compliments on the pins which do not have our name or any other imprint. It's a perfect opportunity for the team member to then say it's a hospice pin and then tell a little about their involvement with hospice. Our volunteers wear the new pins with pleasure and pride, and they are particularly impressed to be considered an important enough part of the team to be recognized in the same way we recognize employees. Hospice of Southwest Florida, Sarasota, Florida
  • Christmas Party
    We held a Hospice Volunteer Recognition Christmas Party and for a special thank you we wrote our own words to the tune of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," expressing to them how much we appreciate them. The whole staff got up and sang it to the volunteers, and we handed teach of them a copy of the words. Not all of us can sing but it was a big hit. United Hospice, South Forks, North Dakota

Return to Great Ideas

  • Recognition Dinner
    Each year, during National Volunteer Week, our staff honors our 225 volunteers and their families at a Volunteer Recognition Dinner we choose a 'theme', decorate appropriately, encourage 'theme wear' and cook for approximately 350 people. In 1990, we had a Hospice Hoe Down, complete with a western barbeque, bales of hay, professional square dancers, and a performance by the Hee-Hawspice players, also known as staff. It is a great joy to watch the volunteers have an enjoyable evening that they can share with friends and family; and it is a wonderful opportunity for us all to play together. I think that, as leaders, we reflect enthusiasm and caring in all that we do. Offering opportunities to play is just as important as tending to the work at hand. Around February, our volunteers begin asking that infamous question, "So what do you have up your sleeve this year?" Hospice of Petaluma, Petaluma, California
  • Thank You Notes
    When a patient passes away, we send a thank you letter to the volunteer involved, personalizing it with specifics of the case and what was involved. This letter is signed by all the members of the team that was seeing the particular patient, including the
    doctor involved. Kaiser Permanente, Panorama City, Panorama City, California
  • Volunteer Valentine Party
    In place of a Christmas Party this year --our volunteers seem so busy during this season-- we decided to have a Valentine Party. A hand addressed invitation was sent to each volunteer and hospice staff member. The event was held February 14,
    from 4-6 p.m. The tables were decorated in white linens with red hearts bordering the table. A large red heart bordered in heart fabric displayed each volunteer and staff members name in white ink. This was placed on an easel near the room entrance. Three-dimensional hearts hung from the ceiling to make the large room more festive. The majority of the food was prepared by the volunteer coordinator --a gesture to show her appreciation to them for their excellent assistance throughout the year. A special song was created (copy follows) and sang by the volunteer coordinator and social worker to the volunteers. A local college swing choir gave a special Valentine performance for the occasion. Volunteers and staff had the opportunity to socialize between program events. In addition, each volunteer was sent a hand addressed Valentine created by the volunteer coordinator. Enclosed with it was a "guardian angel" pin as a gift from Hospice. The verse that accompanied the pin was as follows: A Guardian Angel to watch over you or your loved ones. Keep an angel at your shoulder to guide you through cloudy days and brighten the lives of all who admire her. Wausau Hospice Program, Wausau, Wisconsin
  • Hospice/Cancer Care Retreat
    We invite all our Volunteers to attend our annual Hospice/Cancer Care Retreat. This promotes the knowledge that volunteers are a part of the team and very vital to the program. They get to know on a less professional level the core Hospice team members. The reverse is also true. The core Hospice team is always invited to all the Volunteer inservices held each month. Methodist Hospital Hospice, St. Louis Park, Minnesota
  • Low-Cost Weekends
    Our volunteers come from a large geographically dispersed area and they regularly meet together in their "local" district settings. Often they do not know volunteers outside that district.. Our annual low-cost weekend is an opportunity for them to share and may together in a beautiful rustic setting where everyone is assigned to a group and each group is responsible for the planning, buying, preparing, serving and clean up for one meal. Car-pooling, meal assignments and setting up, housekeeping, sleeping and participation creates interaction. The facility has one large house where we join together for meals and activities. Bringing sleeping bags or bedding in addition to the share of costs for one meal keeps the total cost down. The informal environment, shared activities and sample time for leisurely walks in the woods really contribute to the feeling of the "volunteer family." Visiting Nurse Association of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
  • Locally Convenient Meetings
    We were having very low attendance at our monthly volunteer meetings. Since we are a rural agency and cover a three county area (Wicomico, Worcester and Somerset counties), we began having meetings in the other two counties as well. Now we have monthly meetings in Salisbury (Wicomico county) and Ocean City (Worcester county), and meetings every other month in Crisfield (Somerset county). Volunteers can attend any or all of the meetings and we try to rotate topics, for example: one month we'll have a speaker at our meeting in Salisbury, a general meeting and discuss patient care issues facilitated by the volunteer coordinator in Ocean City, and have a video with discussion in Crisfield. The next month the speaker may be in Ocean City with a general meeting in Salisbury and so on. The volunteers pick the topics and the time of day to meet. Instead of averaging five to six people at a monthly volunteer meeting in Salisbury, we now may have as many as eight in Ocean City, six in Crisfield and four or five in Salisbury. In addition, we occasionally have speakers in the evening at the office in Salisbury and ask volunteers from all three counties to attend instead of having three monthly meetings that month. This gives the volunteers an opportunity to meet one another as well as get acquainted with the paid staff. Coastal Hospice, Salisbury, Maryland

Return to Great Ideas

Training and Recruitment

  • Expanding Educational Opportunities for Volunteers
    We research all available educational/retreat opportunities happening in our tri-city area (e.g., known speakers, alternate and complementary training programs like therapeutic touch, community awareness and education series). We check to see if there is a cost attached and find out how to register. This way we provide opportunities for high quality educational opportunities and are not trying to reinvent the wheel. Volunteers are very appreciative and often avail themselves of these opportunities. Community Hospice of Albany, Albany, New York

  • Checks on Criminal Records for Volunteers
    Partnered with local office of state volunteer agency to provide checks free of charge to us.Hospice of Bend, Bend, Oregon

  • Volunteer Ceremony
    After new volunteers have completed training, we have a dedication ceremony. During the ceremony volunteers are commissioned and receive an anointing of their hands. They receive a certificate, a long-stemmed rose, and an angel pen. It is a very meaningful service. BonSecours Hospice of Saint Mary's Hospital, Richmond, Virginia

  • Cultural Panel
    Develop a panel (as an in-service for volunteer and staff) made up of people of different cultures to talk about death and burial rituals among their cultures. Music, foods, costumes of the culture can also be added. Alive Hospice, Nashville, Tennessee

  • Enhancing the Skills of Church Volunteers Series
    Offer four training sessions to rural churches. At the final session, invitations go to those who trained to continue for one additional training session and become Hospice volunteers for their community. Hospice of Green Country, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Return to Great Ideas

  • "Train Two, Keep One" Training Program for Churches
    As a way to encourage church volunteers to actively support our hospice, we offer a "train two, keep one" program to churches. Churches willing to send 2 of their volunteers to our hospice training commit one person to volunteering with hospice for one year. The other person returns to their church program committed to using and sharing our hospice information with their membership and using our information to help enrich their service programs. Boulder County Hospice, Boulder, Colorado
  • Continuous Training
    We have training every week for three hours. Volunteers can jump in anytime that's convenient for them. We have rotating staff teaching, so no one loses every Saturday. We have a special orientation for brand new volunteers for paperwork each week if necessary. We cover ten subjects in complete training. Vitas Hospice, Hamilton, Ohio
  • Volunteer Journal
    Our great idea is very simple: start keeping a journal about your volunteer experiences. These experiences will enhance your hospice presentations and newsletters. Hospice of Stark County, Canton, Ohio
  • Patients as Speakers at Volunteer Trainings
    Use of a hospice patient ( or former hospice patients such as an AIDS patient who was discharged from hospice and is currently a hospice volunteer) to speak and answer questions at a volunteer training for new hospice volunteers. VNH, San
    Francisco, California
  • Self-Study for Hospice Volunteer Training
    This is for those who desire to become a hospice volunteer when training group is not scheduled. Rather than lose this potential volunteer, I have tried to retain them by developing self-study program based on requirements of volunteer curriculum by use of : 1) Audio-visual tapes to be viewed at home; 2) Once a week conferences with volunteer coordinator for questions and discussions; 3) Reading materials which are discussed at conferences; 4) Request attendance at monthly volunteer meetings; 5) Establishing contact with other volunteers; 6) Close supervision in first patient care case; 7) Documentation by volunteer for hours spent doing self-study (turned in weekly). Muhlenberg Hospice, Plainfield, New Jersey

Return to Great Ideas

  • Volunteer Orientation Program Offered on Saturdays
    The addition of a volunteer orientation program offered on two Saturdays instead of the usual 6 - 8 week program we have offered in past years. This schedule change allowed those individuals interested in volunteering for Hospice who worked full time or who could not make weekly meetings possible. The program ran for 8 months on two Saturdays and the response was good and the volunteers we trained in that program hour proven to be an asset to our program and were grateful to be able to attend our weekend orientation. Kent County VNA
  • Hospice: The Full Picture
    For volunteer training close to end: jigsaw puzzle with pieces labeled (e.g. doctor, sw, primary nurse, etc., out to insurers, NHO, etc). Have volunteers-in-training draw pieces and explain to group what that person/entity does in hospice care as they get the puzzle back together. Center for Hospice Care, Baytown, Texas
  • Hospice Display Board for Recruitment
    I designed a portable display board made of durable formica on the outside and corkboard on the inside. It has a handle and looks like a briefcase. I took pictures of the entire Hospice team in action with patients (release forms signed by all patients) I also took many pictures of volunteers helping out in many capacities (office, community education, patient care, etc.). I mounted these pictures along with a brief description of the Hospice Program. I did all the lettering in calligraphy. This has been an effective tool along with my slide presentation when doing presentations to the community. Valley Baptist Medical Center Hospice Program, Harlingen, Texas
  • Interning
    In the Sacramento area, most of the volunteer training is done through the Hospice Consortium an organization of all the area hospice programs. Because these classes are only offered two or three times per year, potentially good volunteers can easily
    be lost to other worthwhile community service programs. To "catch" these willing persons, we allow volunteers to "Intern" until they can complete the hospice training program. As interns, volunteers must first complete all the other application and screening processes. Once accepted, the intern may then participate in team meetings, team support groups and in-service meetings as well as donate their time in the office. They are not, however, assigned to a patient and family until the completion of the training class. Thus far, it has been successful in retaining several good volunteers!! Kaiser Permanente Hospice Program, Sacramento, California
  • Graduation and Reception
    Each volunteer training course includes twelve sessions with three training courses scheduled each year. At the completion of each training course, a graduation and reception is held. The reception is hosted by the previous training class graduates. This not only allows both classes to get acquainted, it also encourages the individuals to maintain contact to coordinate events. Each class becomes like a family unit, which is especially important with the increasing number of volunteers. The Hospice staff are encouraged to attend these functions which further promotes bonding between staff and volunteers. Hospice of Wake County, Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Panel
    The presentations for orientation and the first five sessions of our training course are made by the professional members of the Hospice Buffalo staff. On the sixth and final evening, however, a panel is assembled which acts as a bridge between the more theoretical presentations of training and the trainees' first assignments. We try to have someone from the Bereavement Program, a longtime home care and trained volunteer. Always appearing on the panel are the volunteer coordinator of volunteers at our free- standing inpatient unit and a volunteer who explains the vigil. If a family wishes to have this service, members of the vigil team take turns of 3 to 4 hours at least to assist the family in maintaining palliative care of their loved one during end stage. Physical and emotional support measures are offered to the patient/family usually for 24 to 48 hours day and night. Hospice Buffalo, Buffalo, New York
  • Touching
    We know that, at a time when contacts of any kind may be diminished for our patients, volunteers can "be there" in a variety of ways. One of the most important of these is to actually touch them. Holding a hand, giving a pat on the back, or sharing a hug can be a special gift from volunteer to patient (or caregiver).Horizon Hospice will be teaching its next class of volunteers about the value of touch as it relates to our patients and to ourselves. We learned about touching from "Dr. Hug", Greg Risberg, whose mother was one of our patients. Greg was one of the presenters at our annual Volunteer Conference. Using humor and demonstrations, Greg had a group of 75 on their feet, rubbing each others' backs, hugging everyone in sight, and laughing hysterically, all within a few minutes of beginning. We explored our own backgrounds - who came from a low-touch family, who was from a high-touch family - and how that affected our feelings about touch. We discussed our own touch experiences, good and bad, and learned how good it can feel to touch and be touched in a caring way. That's what we want to teach our volunteers, so that they can truly be "in touch" with their patients and families. If you'd like to know more about this idea, just look for the Volunteer Coordinator wearing the "Have you hugged a volunteer today" button. Horizon Hospice , Chicago, Illinois
  • Videotaping
    To videotape volunteer training sessions has proved helpful to our program for several reasons: 1. If a trainee is unable to attend a session, he/she can view the videotape in order to complete the course. 2. We offer no more than one training per year. The tapes are available if needed for training before the next regular session. 3. Different speakers are used each year for some sessions. This increases our library for future sessions. 4. Portions of sessions can be used to in-service staff and volunteers for continuing education. 5. Tapes can be loaned to developing programs for assistance in establishing their volunteer component. Our program is hospital based and, therefore, has access to media specialists who do the taping in a professional manner. It could be done, however, with home video equipment perhaps enlisting the aid of volunteers. Baptist Medical Center Hospice, Little Rock. Arkansas
  • Postcard Get Acquainted/Closure
    This activity was developed out of our Volunteer Coordinator's postcard collecting hobby. It is a non-threatening, fun get acquainted activity and a structured way for group members to give and receive "warm fuzzies". We use the activity in our
    Volunteer Training Classes and our Bereavement Support Groups. Materials: The only materials needed are a variety of postcards (animals, humorous, scenic, religious, etc.). You can purchase postcards in many stores. Garage sales are often good places to buy large numbers of cards for a low price. Flea markets and auctions are other places, but be careful, especially at auctions. Bids on postcards can get high if serious collectors or dealers are present. Get Acquainted: First session of a new group. Spread the postcards out on a table. (It works best when the table is placed such that participants can walk all the way around it.) Participants including the facilitator(s) are instructed to select 3 or 4 postcards that reflect something about who they are. Each participant shares with the group the postcards they picked and why. (Participants do not keep the cards.)Closure: Final session of a group. Again spread the postcards out on a table. Participant #1 stays where they are while each of the other group members, including the facilitator(s), select 3 or 4 postcards they feel reflect something about Participant #1. Each group member then shares with Participant #1 the cards he/she picked and why. After everyone has shared, Participant #1 may select one of the cards picked by the other group members to keep. The procedure continues until each participant has been "carded". (Most groups want to select cards about the facilitator(s) as well.) Hospice Circle of Love, Enid, Oklahoma
  • Discussion Groups
    Our idea is used to help each class of volunteers become acquainted, feel that each one is important and share their personal experiences with one another. Volunteers sometimes discuss their own life events, which are as educational as some of the prepared classroom material. Hopefully, it also gives the volunteers insights into some of their own feelings which may be similar to those felt by patients and families. At the beginning of each session, volunteers introduce themselves with their name, the town in which they live, and answer a question. The repetition of the name helps them become familiar with each others' names. An attempt is made to have the question coordinate with the session, such as "your place in the family" for the session on Family Dynamics. Some sample questions used in other sessions include: 1. What interested you in becoming a volunteer? 2. With whom do you live? 3. Where were you raised as a child? 4. What is your place in your family of origin? 5. What was your most serious illness? 6. What is your greatest fear? 7. What is your "pet peeve" or what makes you angry? 8. What is your most recent loss? 9. What food would you miss if you couldn't have it? 10. What is your favorite color? These questions have helped classes to bond and offer support to one another as they work as part of the hospice team. Overlook Hospital, Sununit, New Jersey
  • Hospice Handi Helper Program
    The Handi Helper Hospice Volunteers began as a result of the terminal illness of a mentally handicapped person residing in a community group home where some of these volunteers lived. Through their desire to help their friend, the staff of the
    community homes and Capitol Hospice Care saw the need to provide these mentally handicapped people with an opportunity to be of service to others as hospice volunteers. Seventeen persons, ages 20-40),completed a training program over a four
    week period, specially designed and geared to their mental abilities. A training manual, class workbook, and even a seven-minute film, were presented in a simple and concise manner. The Handi Helpers have been very active in our volunteer program over the past two years. They usually meet monthly to fill gift baskets to be taken to patients for special holidays. Some clean the office twice weekly. Others make baked goods for our training sessions and make pickups and deliveries of supplies for our patients' use. These Hospice Hand Helpers are to be commended for the outstanding and dedicated service they have provided. From helping their friend stay at home in familiar surroundings, they have grown to helping others with a terminal illness. They also continue to be a source of strength and inspiration to many of our non-handicapped volunteers! Capitol Hospice Care, Ponchatoula, Louisiana
  • High School Volunteers
    We are starting a volunteer training for high school students. They are going to go thru the regular volunteer training, and will primarily work at our inpatient facility. They are very excited about coming to Hospice, and we are delighted to have some young people involved. Santa Barbara Hospice, Santa Barbara, California

Return to Great Ideas

Patient Care

Holiday Projects
A letter is mailed to each family member offering volunteer support for holiday projects. This is yet another way to offer families volunteer support or to get the volunteer in the door and to utilize some of the harder to place volunteers (due to time constraints, etc.). They can help with holiday baking, addressing cards, wrapping gifts, shopping, decorating, and "undecorating." Mayo Hospice Program, Rochester, Minnesota

  • Volunteers for Care Facilities
    Interested volunteers receive special training to provide companionship and support to patients in care facilities. They are assigned to different geographical areas and visit all hospice patients in all the various facilities in their area. Staff, patients, and family appreciate this extra attention from hospice and volunteers appreciate being able to do hospice work according to their own schedules. Hospice of Sacred Heart, Eugene, Oregon
  • Volunteer High School Musicians
    Recruit accomplished high school musicians to volunteer their musical talents playing for patients in homes or nursing facilities. One violinist always finished his some concert with Ave Maria. A patient requested this student to play Ave Maria at her funeral, which he did. Benton Hospice Service, Corvallis, Oregon

  •  Comfort Pillows
    Hospice of Northwest Ohio has a group of volunteers who make "comfort pillows" for patients in our unit and at home. These are made from the stuffing of new dacron/polyester pillows–one large pillow makes four comfort pillows. They are small, soft, and covered with a cheery or colorful soft cotton fabric. Patients feel comforted having one or more of these tucked around their head, neck, arms. Patients/families, of course, keep the pillows. Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg, Ohio
  • Volunteer Projects
    We involve the community in hospice by having ladies' groups, girl scout troops, elementary school classes, etc., take part in making crafts for our hospice patients. Our volunteer coordinator buys the supplies, then gives a hospice overview to the group before they work on the project. When the group finishes the craft, our hospice field staff delivers the projects to the patients. Usually, the item relates to a particular season or holiday, and the time spent is counted as volunteer hours. Home Health Plus Hospice, St. Louis, Missouri

Return to Great Ideas

  • "On Call" Volunteers
    Certain volunteers are provided a pager and cellular phone for one week, Monday through Friday, 8a.m.-5p.m., to be available to deliver supplies, equipment, or medication to patients' homes or to run other errands to relieve staff. Rotation is about every 3 or 4 months. With pagers this allows volunteer to continue own activities but is available when needed. Works for our hospice, but it would not work for all. Hospice of East Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Music for Life: Music Therapy Volunteers
    One music-oriented Hospice professional recruits five to ten music-oriented volunteers. These volunteers go into patient homes or facilities to: a) provide live music that the patient chooses for patient and family b) create a personal tape with the patient consisting of meaningful music for the last stage of life which the patient chooses for him/herself now as well as for the family later. c) guiding the patient through a simple progression muscle relaxation exercise utilizing soothing sounds of waterfalls, springs, and rain. Supervisory groups help the volunteer to integrate into the overall clinical process. Volunteers can be recruited from High Schools, Music/Art Colleges, Churches and elderly communities. Patients and family members reported that music and the empathic interaction of "meaning without words" was most important for them to ease into the great transition to the stage after death. Hospice Kaiser Walnut Creek, California.
  • Getting People Who Normally Don't Volunteer to Volunteer
    In Ft. Smith there is an obvious need for a house where people can go to live until their death. This facility would be especially for persons whose families are no longer able to care for them or who have no safe place to stay during the last part of their life. Key people (clergy, physicians, business leaders) from the community were challenged to meet this need. They responded and brought more people on board. This dream of a hospice house is finally becoming a reality. These key people have volunteered and made a major contribution all without their knowing they were volunteering. This has been a high profile community outreach for our hospice, and has been very rewarding. Now these key people think of Ft. Smith Community Hospice when they think of hospice. Ft. Smith Community Hospice, Ft. Smith, Arkansas
  • Initial Visit Volunteer Team
    Team of volunteers attend admission meeting, meet patients, families, explain services, comfort patient. This allows family to meet real life volunteers, (takes the charity feel from volunteer concept), eases pressure on nurses, social worker to explain services, decreases overwhelming feelings of patient/ family on admission. Volunteers do assessment of needs and then have more applicable information for their duties (e.g., pets in home, physical limitations etc.) Hospice Care, Inc., Stamford,   Connecticut
  • Care Calls
    Care calls is a program we plan to institute to be provided by our patient care volunteers (but not limited to). The calls will be made to caregivers of our hospice families to say "Hi, how are you this morning?" The program is designed to support the caregiver, check on patient status and see if their needs are being met. This information is reported to the volunteer coordinator to be passed on to staff. If the volunteer finds that a skilled individual should contact the caregiver or patient, they are to call the agency immediately. The program was developed for hospice families who are "on hold" or are only receiving infrequent visits. Training will be provided along with documentation forms. We feel this is a great way to keep volunteers involved when they are doing direct care and doesn't involve a great deal of time. Midpeninsula Hospice, Mountain View, California

Return to Great Ideas

  • The "Professional" Volunteer
    There have been several frustrating occasions where a volunteer has not been able to do requested respite for a family because the patient requires medical hands-on care during the primary care givers absence (i.e. dressing changes, giving suppositories). We have created a category of "professional volunteer." That is, a volunteer who is also a licensed nurse, who while doing respite with a patient, can take care of that patient's medical needs. We record his/her nursing license and all other date in our files for legal purposes. This professional volunteer is then supervised by the hospice clinical coordinator while he/she is caring medically for a patient while doing respite. This has met a great need for our patients/families. I can see this expanded to include the other disciplines, i.e., social work, pastoral care. Merrimack Valley Hospice, Andover, Massachusetts
  • Video Reports and Introductions for Families
    We video the team members who care for a particular patient whose children or significant family members live far away. This is done periodically and mailed to out-of-town family. This allows the family to "know" who we are when their family talks about us and to see how their parent is doing along the way. The volunteers do the videotaping. Birthday cakes and flowers are provided by different merchants for a party. This was recently video taped by volunteers for family. It allowed the out-of-towners to have a participation in the event even though they couldn't be there. It's a resource for the family units and a fun job for the volunteers. Spohn Hospice, Corpus Christi, Texas
  • Volunteer Innovations
    Combined staff and volunteer Human Resources into a "jointly" managed department. Created specialized volunteer teams for nursing homes, hospital, assisted living facilities, etc. Volunteer and staff train volunteers together. Senior volunteers designated as volunteer training team leaders. Hospice of Northwest Florida, Pensacola, Florida
  • Volunteer Bath Team
    We used volunteer Registered nurses as captains and a volunteer (non-professional) as a second member who would visit patients and give them a bath at the request of the hospice nurse. Hospice of the Valley, Youngstown, Ohio
  • Obtaining Written Rx for Narcotics
    Volunteers pick up written Rx from physician's office and take to the pharmacy. Pharmacy may deliver or volunteer does, or family picks up. This helps both family and staff. Sacred Heart Hospice, Eugene, Oregon

Return to Great Ideas

  • Using Humor and Music
    We try to bring joy to our patients and to their family members and one of the ways we do this, when appropriate, is to include humor and music. We have done this in a variety of ways. We have done birthday parties and special celebrations by taking an electric keyboard to the home and singing songs and playing music. For a birthday party we also bring along a decorated cake, hats, napkins, perhaps a gift, etc. Things that would please that particular person. In our volunteer office we have a library. The actual cases were donated by a patient's husband in his wife's memory and a brass plaques on the bookcases indicates this. In the cases we have VCR films, books and cassette tapes to loan. We also have a television, VCR and cassette tape players to loan. We are proud of our memorial library because we have a wonderful variety of music and information to offer: religious tapes, classical music, pop tunes, country western, meditation, relaxation and guided imagery tapes, Dr. Bernie Siegel, Norman Cousins, Steve Allen, etc.. It is something for everyone! It was a joy for our patient's husband and family to help us build this library. It has been exciting adding items to the library and the greatest reward of all comes from seeing patients' faces when the items bring such happiness to them. We discuss the importance of music and humor in our volunteer training. Hospice of Fresno at Saint Agnes, Fresno, California
  • Volunteer That Visits Patients on Special Occasions
    Our Hospice has a volunteer that visits patients and families on special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, of "just because" dressed as a clown. On this visit he takes as a gift a mylar balloon or a cake. In addition, cards are sent for these special occasions. VNA Hospice of Indian River County, Vero Beach, Florida
  • Having Volunteers Take An Active Role
    Our great idea is having volunteers take an active role in ensuring that our patients are visited daily while they are in the hospital. There are presently 15 members on the Volunteer Hospital Team who are headed by one very active volunteer acting as captain. The function of this team is to provide ongoing socialization for the patient and provide respite for family members holding vigil. The captain of the Hospital Team makes up a schedule to cover our hospice patients in two hospitals. Volunteers go the same day each week, with substitutes filling in whenever necessary. Communication among the volunteers is important, as well as communication between the Volunteer Coordinator and the captain of the Hospital Team. As patients are admitted to the hospital. The captain is notified and she in turn informs the team members who will be visiting the hospital on their assigned day each week. They document their visits in a volunteer narrative manual which is left at the nurses station. These narratives are read daily by the volunteer before they see the patients. The captain then delivers the notes monthly to the Hospice office. On occasion the hospital team has worked like a team to sit with a patient for long periods of time to offer respite to the family. The volunteers who are members of the hospital team are also encouraged to have a home care patient who they visit also. Attendance in our hospice rooms in the hospital can vary greatly. Therefore, a home care patient keeps the volunteers active. ln addition, a monthly support meeting is held for members of the Hospital Team. This meeting is attended by the volunteer coordinator and the inpatient coordinator who gives an update on the patients. These volunteers are a very active and significant part of our Hospice Team. Hospice Care Inc., Stamford, Connecticut

Return to Great Ideas

  • On-Call Volunteer Program
    At Hospice of Santa Barbara we have been very successful with our On-Call Volunteer Program. We draw participants for special training from our experienced patient care volunteers. We then train this special group who are available, by phone,
    during the hours our office is closed (from 5:30 PM to 8:30 AM on weekdays and for 24 hours on Saturdays and Sundays). The on-call volunteers play two very special roles in our organization. The on-call volunteer is available for information or support by phone. Calls are forwarded by the answering service and the volunteer acts as a representative to explain Hospice services and more importantly to offer active listening to someone in immediate need. Another function of the on-call volunteer is to accompany the on-call nurse to the home at the time of a patient's death. The volunteer is then available to assist the R.N. in whatever way she/he can help. The volunteer also offers valuable understanding and assistance to the grieving family members. This volunteer role is extremely supportive by accompanying our on-call RNs who very often find themselves making a visit at a late hour. We equip our on-call volunteer with a beeper so that he/she can be paged by the answering service if necessary. We also provide an On-Call Volunteer Book with information about our services, copies of the Admit Sheets for all current patients, general information concerning resources in the community, etc. We have found that the specialized area of patient care volunteer service has been very satisfying. This program offers valuable help to our on-call nurses and the families we serve. Hospice of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California
  • Massage Training
    When a massage therapist joined our volunteer staff, massages became very popular throughout our unit. For a period of three months she donated her time two mornings a week to give free massages to staff and volunteers. In addition to the relaxation and enjoyment, we began to see the therapeutic value this "body work" could bring in symptom management for our patients. Our massage therapist volunteer readily agreed to develop a six week teaching environment (2 hours weekly) for staff or volunteers interested in learning massage techniques. During this six-week period individuals were taught to do massage in the following areas: arm and hand, foot and leg, back rub, and the 10 step-tune up (back and shoulder massage). At this point we have a number of volunteers who have completed the training. The majority of them have since used their massage techniques with home care and inpatient program participants. The response from our patients and caregivers receiving massage has been extremely positive. Wausau Hospice Program, Wausau, Wisconsin.
  • Christmas Caroling Party
    At Xmas time, we do Light Up a Life, like some other hospices, but we also do a special Xmas Caroling Party for the volunteers and our patients. We have a pot luck dinner at one of the volunteers homes, and then we have the SB Airbus pick us up to go caroling to patients homes. We usually go to about 6-8 homes, including our inpatient facility and 2 of the AIDS homes in town. We prearrange with the families prior to that night to make sure that we are welcome. That morning we deliver gift baskets full of goodies that are donated by local merchants to the homes that we will be caroling at. We usually have someone that plays the guitar to lead us, and this year someone came up with the great idea of providing a box of instruments (like cymbals, bells, rattles, triangles, the kind of stuff kids use in school), that those of us who are not musically inclined! The patients, the families, the volunteers, the staff, the board, everyone has a terrific time. Santa Barbara Hospice, Santa Barbara, California
  • Flowers
    A volunteer who loves flower arranging is contacted by staff prior to a patient's birthday or wedding anniversary. She creates a lovely arrangement from flowers donated by local funeral homes, then delivers the arrangement on the special day with a card "from your friends at St. Thomas Hospice." These have been received with delight by the patients and families; also a very meaningful act of love by the volunteer. She also makes arrangements for the nursing home patients and others to bring some joy into their days. St. Thomas Hospice, Hinsdale, Illinois


  • Volunteer Phone Log
    Every week before the interdisciplinary team meeting the volunteer coordinator (or their appointee) calls all volunteers that are active with patients. The current status of the patient is discussed as well as any problem or potential problem. The volunteer is asked to come to the IDT meeting if there is a problem or they feel a need for further discussion. At the IDT meeting the caller reports on what is happening with each volunteer and their patient. If the team decides any changes are to be made the volunteer is notified following the meeting. A detailed phone log is maintained by the volunteer coordinator of all calls to the volunteers. It contains date, time, length of call, and a summary of the conversation. This phone log is used for all contacts with the volunteer. This total "feedback" system helps the volunteer to be an integral part of the IDT team. Iowa River Hospice, Marshalltown, Iowa
  • Two-Part NCR Volunteer Progress Notes
    Forms to simplify record keeping/documentation. In order to capture our Patient Care Volunteer hours and document volunteer contacts for the patient's medical record, we devised a two-part NCR form. The volunteers receive a supply of forms during their volunteer training, along with the written instructions. They record their patient contacts and turn in the forms once a month. They are instructed to call immediately if they have any concerns or questions about their patient, recognizing that turnaround time for the forms could be up to a month. Once these forms are received, the volunteer hours recorded, and the notes read, the top copy is filed in the patient's medical record and the bottom copy is filed in the volunteer's file in the Volunteer Department. San Diego Hospice, San Diego, California
  • Documentation Method
    The form our hospice uses for volunteer reporting is an easy method for both volunteers and staff. It allows for either a check-off of the activity performed and/or including space for a narrative portion. Plans are underway to tighten the check-up portion, so that more room will be available for narrative comments. The white portion becomes a part of the patient's file and the yellow copy is utilized for logging the hours in our computer. While the white portion is immediately a part of the permanent record, the yellow portion does stay in the Volunteer Office for the duration of the active case. This format makes it easier for case/administrative reporting by both volunteers and staff. For example: 1) Some volunteers would rather just check off their activities, rather than do a narrative. 2) Easier way for Coordinator to note volunteer activities which are telephoned into the hospice. 3) Same form used by Coordinator for doing assessments of cases. Wissahickon Hospice, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Alliances and Networking Marketing and Referrals
Bereavement Special Programs
Clinical Staff Support
Community Education Team
Fundraising Volunteers

©2011 Dale G. Larson, Ph.D.