The Heart of Hospice Volunteers

“Many of our hospice volunteers don’t even realize the impact they have on the lives they touch”

Volunteers are valuable members of our society. They are people who spread goodness to others out of the kindness of their hearts. Volunteers are found everywhere! They are working to fix up and build parks, they are picking up trash on the side of our roads, they are greeting fellow church members, they can be found in kitchens for the less fortunate, they can be found stocking shelves at a food pantry, they are heard singing at nursing homes with fellow volunteers, they are working at schools reading to students, they are at hospitals in the gift shop or pushing new mothers in wheelchairs through the hospital halls. Volunteers are in more places than many even realize. They are silent workers who do not need, or most-times want, appreciation or big recognition because they are usually doing their volunteer work for one reason only: to make a positive difference. Volunteers show up and complete tasks for the greater good. Our society doesn’t take much time to appreciate all the little things volunteers do that truly add up to the big picture of the greater good. So, instead of just one-day, we give them a whole week to recognize their importance to all of us! Volunteer Appreciation WEEK is April 19-25.

And then, there are the hospice volunteers.

Although ALL volunteers are special and truly appreciated, due to my line of work as a Hospice Nurse, I find that Hospice Volunteers are VERY special individuals. Working in the field of hospice is not an easy task, emotionally. Then, to have these men and women (and pets) donate their time and hearts to hospice programs – WOW!

Hospice volunteers help the hospice team members provide enhanced quality to the lives of our patients. Oftentimes, they go unnoticed because the nursing aspects usually take the front seat and drives the course of the hospice cares, but hospice volunteers are right there along for the ride, even if just briefly (but, oh so meaningful). I have seen countless times the difference a hospice volunteer can make on the (remaining) lives of our hospice patients. The hospice volunteer visits are, sometimes, the main reason our patients find peace and meaning at the end of their life. A gentle touch, a shared story, a pet visit, bestowing a beautiful singing/musical talent, or providing a vigil and presence at bedside so that our patient does not die alone – these are just a few ways our hospice volunteers make a difference.

Many of our hospice volunteers don’t even realize the impact they have on the lives they touch.

Some volunteers in hospice programs want to make a difference, but do not want to work at patients bedsides, so many of these men and women can be found working in the office helping to make copies or coordinate paperwork, put together information packets, perform filing, and/or answering phones. These office volunteers are just as important as the bedside volunteers to help the hospice program run smoothly and effortlessly. Each volunteers of the hospice team brings a special touch, a special talent, and every moment of volunteering is appreciated by the hospice nurses and, in the long run, by the patients and their loved ones/family members.

All Hospice Agencies have their own Hospice Volunteer program (as a mandatory Medicare requirement) with their own agency volunteers and special talents that they can offer to hospice patients and their loved ones. They are all lead by a dedicated employee (or sometimes more than one, depending on the size of the hospice) – known as The Hospice Volunteer Coordinator who recruits, orients, trains, records hours, and educates their hospice volunteers. Hospice Volunteer Coordinators, that I have known throughout my career as a hospice nurse, have ALL been the most kind, compassionate, gentle, loving souls who are passionate about leading volunteers. They don’t need recognition for their hard work, they just LOVE their job as the Hospice Volunteer Coordinator.

This week, as we celebrate ALL Volunteers, it is important to recognize and appreciate those volunteers in your hospice program. What can you, as the Hospice Nurse/Team Member, do to show your appreciation?

  • Take a moment in your busy day to stop in and see your Volunteer Coordinator to thank him/her for all of their hard work coordinating the volunteer program (yes, it’s a lot of work!)
  • Ask your Volunteer Coordinator about the individual Volunteers in the program. Get to know the volunteers who see your hospice patients, even if it is just the Volunteer Coordinator taking the time to talk about the volunteers that visit your patients.
  • Send an email! Send an email to the volunteers in your program with a simple THANK YOU! If you don’t know your volunteers (or their email addresses), send an email to the Volunteer Coordinator to forward onto the Volunteer Team.
  • Have more time? Send a personal card to each of the volunteers that make a difference to your patients. Or, simply send one card to the Volunteer Coordinator to share with the entire Hospice Volunteer Team.
  • Help coordinate a brunch or luncheon for the Volunteers! If you don’t have the time or talent to coordinate this, be sure to show up to the event to show your appreciation for the Hospice Volunteers. 🙂
  • Find out if your Volunteer Coordinator has something special planned for the Volunteers (whether it is this week or another time during the year) and offer to help in some way.

Hospice Volunteers are the quiet members of your team. They may not be working on the physical comfort of your patients, they won’t be providing daily cares, nor will they be working on future planning, nor providing counseling support, but these team members make a difference by touching the hearts of your hospice patients through companionship, through their caring visits, by sharing their talents, and by the behind-the-scenes work they do to help the hospice program run smoothly. Take the time to thank your Hospice Volunteers this week – and always.

Thank you, Volunteers, for your positive impact on our communities. ❤️

Published by TeriHospiceRN

The author is a dedicated RN with 8-years experience as a Hospice Nurse. She is a Certified Hospice & Palliative Nurse (CHPN) who is passionate about education, and providing compassionate end-of-life cares.

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