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This page is devoted to the management of volunteer programs in health care settings.

~June 2009~

Being a Volunteer Champion

It's interesting to me that as hospitals tighten their belts, college students are coming out of the woodwork (so to speak) for internship opportunities. In the recent past, hospitals would pay college students to "intern" for the summer. But with the economy in its current situation, these dollars are considered unneeded expenditures and some hospitals are stopping these practices.

If these students can't find paid internship opportunities, the obvious is bound to happen. They look to unpaid ones because the students are smart enough to realize the value of work experience whether paid or unpaid. I have been inundated with college students looking for the work experience to go along with their course of study. As unpaid interns, these students fall into the volunteer category.

I recently had the opportunity to ask a department manager if they wanted to "host" two college interns for the summer. And while he said "Yes," he added that he felt funny asking an intern to do some of the more menial tasks that might be required for no monetary remuneration. What a teachable moment! And yes, I seized this opportunity to educate him -- on two counts.

First, I reminded him that adult volunteers come from all walks of life, professional careers and varied backgrounds. Why should he feel differently about college students versus his regular adult volunteers. Both are there to help out, maybe learn something, be out and around people and make a difference in people's lives. After all, isn't that what volunteering is all about?

Secondly, I challenged him to consider the different impact experience can make on a resume. As someone who regularly makes hiring decisions, who would he be more likely to hire? The one with the college degree or the one with the college degree and work experience. Needless to say, he understood the point being made.  Today's college students recognize the value of the experience and that's why they are willing to invest a summer in themselves participating in an internship however the opportunity may present itself.

Sometimes I think those who supervise and manage volunteers get too caught up in the everyday "busy-ness" of the job, they lose perspective. And that's why it is important for us to maintain working relationships with folks in our organizations so we can be a champion for the volunteers -- whether the traditional adult volunteer, high school youth volunteer or the college intern.

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The author of the Heath Care Volunteer Programs column is Mary Kay Hood , MS Hendricks Regional Health, Danville, IN (317) 745-3556. With a BS degree in biology from Marian College and a Master of Science in Management from Indiana Wesleyan University, Mary Kay has been involved in volunteer management over twenty years with a zoo and in the health care field. During that time, she completed the Management of Volunteer Programs course offered at University of Indianapolis, several supervisory training programs as well as the Indiana Hospital and Health Association’s Management Institute offered by the Executive Education Program, School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. Mary Kay served on the Nonprofit Training Center of United Way from 1993 to 2006. During that time, she taught many workshops also facilitating speaker arrangements for the Basic Volunteer Management series. Additionally, she has presented at various national and international conferences. Mary Kay served as president of the Central Indiana Association for Volunteer Administration (CIAVA) from 1993-1997 and the Indiana Society of Directors of Volunteer Services (ISDVS) from 2006-2008. She was also the recipient of the 1995 Outstanding Director of Volunteer Services Award and the 2002 United Way of Central Indiana Volunteer of the Year Award. Most recently she served on the Steering Committee for COVAA resulting in the formation of a new national membership organization for those in volunteer management, the Association of Leaders in Volunteer Engagement (AL!VE). With several published articles, she is also author to two books: The One Minute Answer to Volunteer Management Questions and The Volunteer Leader as Change Agent.

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