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The 5 R’s to Implementing Effective Tactics in Hospital Volunteer Programs

August 8, 2019


Volunteers make the world go round. In the US alone, volunteerism has an estimated economic value of over $167 billion, according to The National Community Service. Hospitals especially rely on volunteers acting as the backbone and stabilizing in-house interactions, while improving the patient experience. Because volunteers donate their time, keep in mind that they contribute their energy for a cause, not necessarily an applause. However, without an adequate volunteer program, hospitals lack the personable touch that volunteers bring to the patient experience. Ready to establish an effective volunteer program? Just remember the five R’s:

Reinforce the hospital’s core values and mission.

Volunteers are a vital piece to underlining the hospital’s brand and culture. In a sense, they represent the face of your hospital. If you do not educate volunteers about the mission and values they volunteer their time for, the company’s culture cannot be fully implemented. It is crucial for hospitals to accurately educate their volunteers about the specific impacts they make and how that contributes to your core values. See them as part of your staff and let them know their importance and influential value they provide to the company as the staff.

Round and develop your volunteers with workshops.

Engagement is key to creating a well-rounded volunteer program. Invest in your volunteers to help them succeed as the very best representatives for your organization. By conducting volunteer workshops or focus groups, you can guide your volunteers down the path to becoming more well-rounded individuals. These workshops could also include how to talk to the patients, how to properly enter a room, or even how to observe their surroundings. These are all key components in indulging in patient experience.

“All the data in healthcare is retrospective. When it comes to patient experience, you have to constantly be looking and seeing what is happening in the ‘right now.’ The ability to round and see and hear with your eyes is critical to improving patient experience,” Kathy Boswell, an Excellence Accelerator® Division Coach for PRC, said. Invest your time in your volunteers to help them understand their environment and your entire patient experience will grow.

Render the care volunteers can legally provide.

When onboarding new volunteers, try and steer away from “basic” orientation and simply sending volunteers to where you want them. Sorting the volunteers into an area of interest rather than assigning them to “where is needed” at the time can make all the difference. However, make sure to also be mindful of the extent of labor your volunteers can legally provide the hospital. Volunteers should be utilized to their full ability without overextending any legal boundaries as unpaid contributors. Hospital volunteering guidelines vary state-to-state and you should always research the scope of work volunteers can provide without violation. With that said, make sure the volunteers know their time and devotion is much appreciated. To learn more about volunteer guidelines, visit The American Hospital Association’s Resource Center.

Recognize and value volunteer’s generosity and willingness.

Volunteers can sometimes fall in the shadows of the other hospital employees. However, if hospitals want to maintain their volunteer loyalty, prioritize recognizing and highlighting your volunteer’s impacts. If your hospital doesn’t already do this, start a volunteer of the month program. By doing so, you build excitement for volunteers knowing you appreciate their generosity. Consider also organizing fun group activities such as going out for lunch or playing “get-to-know you” games between the volunteers and other hospital staff members. Acknowledging that your hospital’s volunteers have the potential to also be your patients can also play a major role in advancing the current volunteer program, as well as the patient experience. Just as you solicit employee feedback, consider asking volunteers how they feel about the program to develop quality of care within your organization.

Reach out to a younger demographic.

Most volunteers fall in Generation X; 57% of United States volunteers are between the ages of 35 and 54, according to a 2015 economic news release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As millennials age, they’re similarly becoming the new face of hospitals. And don’t forget about Gen Z!  By reaching out to younger volunteers, you expose them to new career possibilities within the hospital field. Community service and volunteer experience have become a larger requirement for applications, resumes, and even graduating high school. By recruiting the younger demographics into these new opportunities, you’ve exposed students and young adults to a more professional field of work earlier rather than later. Indulging in a hospital volunteer program, develops their professionalism in speaking to adults, acting around colleagues, and even improving their social skills. Because who knows, the young volunteers today could be the future of physicians and hospital staff tomorrow.

Having an efficient and effective volunteer program has been deemed as a key variable in creating long-term supporters and future team members. It is important to establish your hospital with a good first impression of the program as well letting educating volunteers on their specific impact to the hospital and community. Always keep in mind that hospital volunteers run as the backbone to stabilizing the in-house interactions, as well as increasing the patient experience.

Learn more about PRC’s approach to patient experience here.

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