Hospice volunteers are unpaid workers who have donated their time and resources to support hospice patients, caregivers, and staff. They are an essential part of a well-run hospice program -- so essential in fact that hospice agencies receiving Medicare or Medicaid funding have to prove that at least 5% of hospice work is being done by volunteers in order to be paid. Hospice volunteers may do a number of important tasks that range from assisting in office work to vigiling at a dying patient's bed side.
Hospice volunteers find themselves privy to confidential patient information and are involved with patients and their loved ones during a most personal and vulnerable time in their lives. For this reason, hospice volunteers must go through extensive orientation and training to prepare them for the often difficult, and always rewarding, work they will do. Most hospice agencies provide this training for volunteers which is typically 20 to 30 hours spread out over several weeks. The training helps volunteers develop the communication skills necessary to comfort and support patients and families, and explains the emotional and spiritual needs of patients at the end of life.
A hospice volunteer typically dedicates four hours a week to a hospice agency but most agencies are flexible with volunteer hours. Because a hospice agency spends significant time and money to train their volunteers, they generally like to get a one year commitment from volunteers. For more information on what jobs a hospice volunteer may do, please see "What is a Hospice Volunteer".
If you think you have the time and skills needed to be a hospice volunteer, follow these 5 steps to get started:
- Do a self evaluation - how much time do you have to dedicate? What skills do you have that would be most useful to dying patients and their loved ones?
- Choose a hospice agency that you would like to volunteer for. Not all hospices are created equal! Follow the same principles that patients and families should follow when choosing a hospice agency. Please see "Tips for Choosing a Hospice Agency" for more information.
- Contact the hospice agency you've chosen and inquire about hospice volunteer training.
- Attend volunteer training and orientation.
- Use those wonderful talents and skills to help people when they need it most!