How to Become a Hospice Volunteer

Person holding patient's hand
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Hospice volunteers 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 being vigil at a dying patient's bedside.

Training 

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 the course of several weeks. The training helps volunteers develop the various 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 regarding the exact number of volunteer hours. Because a hospice agency spends significant time and money to train their volunteers, they generally like to get at least a one-year commitment from volunteers. This way overall volunteer turnaround is limited.

Responsibilities

Hospice volunteers have a variety of responsibilities. Their responsibilities can include administrative work, social visits, caregiver relief, therapy, and more.

5 Steps to Becoming a Volunteer 

If you think you have the time and necessary skill set needed to be a hospice volunteer, follow these 5 steps in order to get started:

  1. Do a self-evaluation: How much time do you have to dedicate to hospice volunteering? What skills do you have that would be most useful to dying patients and their loved ones?
  2. 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.
  3. Contact the hospice agency that you have chosen and inquire about their hospice volunteer training.
  4. Attend volunteer training and orientation.
  5. Use those wonderful talents and skills to help people when they need it most!