Volunteer Training Program with Northwest Michigan Hospice Assist

Northwest Michigan Hospice Assist partners with local licensed and certified Hospice agencies to supplement their Volunteer programs by providing recruitment, screening and basic training workshops. Prospective Hospice volunteers actually apply for volunteer positions; the process is very similar to applying for a job because being a Hospice Volunteer is also quite similar to having a job. The hospice volunteer will complete a background check (including fingerprinting), is interviewed and screened, then trained. Once volunteering with an agency begins, the work is supervised and the volunteer is evaluated at least annually. Hospice Assist works with area licensed and certified agencies to recruit, screen, and provide basic training for hospice volunteers. Specific agency training will take place with the hospice(s) to which you choose to provide your volunteer services. 

2014 Chx Marathon2The Application and Training Process

Hospice Assist’s Basic Volunteer training includes background checks and interview, followed by classroom training and ongoing occasional in-service training. Volunteer training can address the following topics:

  1. Orientation – Basic Hospice History, Criteria and Philosophy
  2. Admission Process and Diseases/Death and Dying
  3. Communication Skills, Understanding the Family/Ethical Issues
  4. Nutrition/Care and Comfort Measures
  5. Funeral Home Tour / Advance Care Planning (ACP)
  6. TB Testing, OSHA, In-service Training
  7. Spiritual Care of the Family

Hospice Assist Volunteer Requirements

Besides the volunteer’s application being accepted and the training successfully completed, a Hospice Volunteer will be given a list of local hospice agencies who work to place volunteers with patients. These volunteers, once having completed the specific agency requirements for training, could be required to:

  • Agree to a written Personnel Agreement
  • Agree to a written Volunteer Confidentiality Agreement
  • Agree to a written Confidentiality Policy
  • Agree not to accept gifts or gratuities
  • Compete annual Tuberculosis tests
  • Agree to a written Physical/Sexual Abuse Policy
  • Maintain service logs and records
  • Accept/Decline Hepatitis B Vaccination
  • Agree to be fingerprinted
  • Agree to a drug test

Hospice Assist welcomes friends and family members of previous hospice patients to become hospice volunteers after a 12-month bereavement period.

Hospice Assist’s Commitment to Quality

Hospice Assist is collaborating with area hospice agencies that are certified by the US Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. We enjoy productive, supportive relationships with public, private and non-profit health care providers and organizations.

About Volunteers and Volunteering

The Role of Hospice Volunteers

The Hospice tradition has always included volunteers. Trained hospice volunteers are part of a patient’s Hospice Care Team and Hospice Care Plan. As a team member, if the volunteer observes something that he/she thinks the team should know about, such as something he/she knows is a complication, or is contrary to the Care Plan, or which might be a safety hazard the volunteer communicates that concern to another team member such as the Volunteer Coordinator or the Team Leader.

For immediate or emergency events, the volunteer has telephone access to hospice medical team members at all times. A volunteer’s observations can provide critically important information to the Hospice Care Team. For example, a volunteer might be the first to notice that the principal caregiver’s performance is rapidly declining, a change in patient behavior has occurred or even that a patient or family member is beginning to think of suicide.

Bereavement services and assisting patient and family members to cope with loss is a constant theme in hospice volunteer work. A terminal diagnosis, however many weeks, months or years a patient may live, is itself a loss for the patient and family accompanied by grief. The diminished capacity of the patient and related changes in daily life are also losses for the patient and family. How individuals respond to loss is highly variable, but the presence of a trained, caring volunteer can be immensely helpful. A hospice volunteer may provide bereavement support to the patient or family members while contributing to the work of the hospice care team.

After the death of a patient, hospice programs offer family members 13 months of supportive bereavement services. Hospice Assist also provides bereavement services and grief support groups for non-hospice individuals. A hospice volunteer may play a variety of roles supporting these services.

Types of Volunteer Work

A hospice volunteer may be asked to do a variety of things to assist a hospice patient or family, or to benefit the the community. These may include:

  • Errands for a hospice household, such as grocery shopping
  • Spending time with the hospice patient for the patient’s enjoyment and stimulation and/or to provide a break for the caregiver(s) so that they can relax, run errands, and keep appointments knowing their loved one is in good hands
  • Helping a hospice patient to write letters, use a computer, or engage in hobbies and tasks
  • Assisting residents to plan in advance for their medical care choices
  • Providing bereavement support services
  • Use community education and outreach opportunities to inform the public about hospice services, administrative support and fundraising work in support of the program

Depending upon their capacities and comfort level, volunteers may set the pattern of doing all things or only some things that may be needed. In some cases, volunteer involvement with a hospice patient is occasional and minimal; in others, it is substantial. Even in “minimal” involvement cases, the timing of the assistance may be profoundly important to caregiver, patient or family.

The items listed above may seem mundane or downright boring, but not so when the volunteer’s involvement is more than minimal. A hospice volunteer’s presence, capacity to listen and companionship can be a remarkable support to patients and families, and can be a source of important information for the hospice care team. A volunteer is engaged with a patient and family undergoing a unique transition, and provides a valuable and rewarding service by being present, by listening and by understanding. Volunteers report they often find their experiences to be extraordinary, enriching and rewarding.

A hospice volunteer does not engage in:

  • Patient transportation
  • Personal care, such as bathing
  • Preparing meals other than light cooking
  • Patient feeding
  • Preparing medications
  • Being judgmental, especially about moral, personal, political or religious subjects
  • Any activity considered to be unsafe

For more information on becoming a volunteer, please call 800.551.4140 or email: info@HospiceAssist.org. Thank you!