Hospitals are fast-paced workplaces with a wide variety of jobs. In addition to doctors and nurse, there are also administrators, receptionists, PR staff, janitors, technicians, and many others, all coming together to provide quality patient care. But with budgets growing ever tighter, many hospitals have chosen to shift some responsibilities to an often under-tapped well of supporters: volunteers. By taking on some of the more routine tasks and engaging with the community, volunteers can help alleviate many of the costs associated with hospital operations.
Who Can Volunteer?
Almost anyone can be a volunteer at a hospital. According to a recent study, most volunteer corps are comprised mainly of retirees, students, and stay-at-home parents.1 Not only are they helping with overhead costs; they are helping improve patient engagement. Why? Because many of the volunteers have been patients themselves and can empathize with current patients.
This ability to relate has been especially helpful in an area called volunteer mentorship. According to the Wall Street Journal, volunteer mentors use their experience to help others during both short-term care and long-term life changes.2 For example, a senior who has recently had a hip replacement can help mentor another patient going through the same thing. Similarly, a person learning how to adjust to life with diabetes can find comfort and support in the more personal touch of an individual who already has experience living with the disease.
What Do Volunteers Do?
Volunteer mentorship isn’t the only way volunteers are helping hospitals. Some are performing routine tasks like data entry, inventory, and hospitality. Others are bridging the gap between the hospital and the patient, helping both those admitted to the hospital and their families feel more comfortable and secure.
Volunteers are also a key component of patient advisory councils. These groups tap into both patients (and family members) who have had positive experiences and those who have had negative experiences. Ultimately, the aim is to help revitalize the patient experience by instituting patient-friendly reforms like the reduction of nighttime noise levels. By 2013 (the latest year for which statistics are available), 40 percent of hospitals had adopted advisory councils.
Hospitals are increasingly relying on volunteers of all types. In fact, some hospitals benefited from over 100,000 volunteer work hours in 2014 alone. Facilities are even instituting training programs to help their volunteers learn best practices in peer mentor training, management systems for chronic illnesses, and more. 2
How Volunteers Benefit
The evidence is clear: volunteerism in hospitals benefits everyone–especially the volunteers. Volunteers report an increase in self-confidence from developing new skills and making a tangible difference in their community. A study performed by the Corporation for National and Community Service reports that volunteers who put in a significant amount of hours in organizations such as a hospitals have lower mortality rates and report fewer incidents of depression or mental health problems, especially in older or retired volunteers.4
Student volunteers gain from getting experience in fields such as medicine and administration. The University of Nevada Corporate Extension reports that teenagers clock in 2.4 billion hours of volunteerism each year (to the tune of $34.3 billion in saved money for employers).5 This number is widely believed to be a result of not only higher rates of youth involvement but also because of a push for job shadowing to add to a well-rounded resume for college or careers. Hospitals can increase the level of volunteerism by providing students with further professional development, like providing mentors or specialized courses, in exchange for participating.
Don’t let the burden of credentialing a large number of volunteers cause you to miss out on the benefits of volunteerism at your facility. Through the IntelliCentrics experience, you will be able to engage with every volunteer who enters your facility. You’ll be in the knowledge that you are following the top-referenced and requested compliance standards from 11 regulatory bodies, ensuring a safe and environment. Plus, will incorporate your facility’s own policies and provide best practice recommendations from facilities around the country.
Hospital Volunteers Are the Future
Patients and their families need to know their care is taking place in a safe and environment and that will factor into their choice of a facility. volunteers can add to a safe environment and help get patients engaged with their own care. By applying their skills at little (or no) cost, volunteers can help improve the patient experience while saving the hospital time and money. While some systems may be slower to adopt volunteerism than others, it is a no-lose situation for both the volunteers and healthcare community.
- FierceHealthcare Volunteers
- Wall Street Journal
- FierceHealthcare Advisory Councils
- Corporation for National and Community Service
- University of Nevada Corporate Extension