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HEALTH CARE VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS

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

~September 2009~

The Art of Correction

As I sit here in a waiting room reading a magazine article on the art of being nice, I’m reminded of a recent exchange with a teen volunteer where I had to correct some inappropriate behavior. Even though I’m a huge proponent of involving youth in our volunteer programs, there are times when I’m faced with the challenge of having to correct inappropriate behavior. 

Now I don’t know many people that “delight” in that task. The thought of having to confront inappropriate behavior often makes the stomach churn and makes for sweaty palms. Nonetheless, there are times when it is required. It’s those situations that it’s easy to grab a BEER!

Okay, you’re thinking I have really gone off the deep end, right? Actually the acronym BEER provides a simple method to address inappropriate behavior. So what is this BEER?
Behavior – When a discussion of this type is necessary, remember to concentrate on behavior only. This is not the time to bring up personal feelings. Remember to stay focused on the inappropriate behavior in an objective fashion. This keeps it from being personal and allows you to maintain respect for the person on the receiving end as well.
Effect – As the discussion continues, explain what happens with the current behavior.  Describing what happens provides a clear picture of the effect of the inappropriate behavior.
Expectation – Setting forth and describing the correct behavior is the next step.  With a focus on the desired expectation of behavior, clearly defining proper and appropriate expectations often results in solving problems.
Result – Finally, indicate the end result if the inappropriate behavior continues. This ultimately puts the burden of appropriate behavior as a choice for the volunteer.
Because these discussions are hard and uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to call in a colleague and actually practice the process. Sometimes having thought through the discussion allows you to think of all the questions/comments that might be made in return.  So, on the recent occasion when I had to correct inappropriate behavior in a young teen volunteer, this is the approach I used.  

  1. B – Your behavior of putting your head down on the desk is inappropriate.
  2. E – When patients, family members and visitors enter our facility, if they see you with your head down, they may question the quality of healthcare provided here.  That is not the image our facility wishes to portray to the public.
  3. E – The expectation is that you will be fully engaged and present when you are here for your volunteer shift.  That means being awake, interested in what’s going on at the desk and being willing to assist patients, family members and visitors as they enter.
  4. R – If you cannot meet these expectations, this volunteer opportunity may not be best suited for you. 

Utilizing this acronym provides an easy, effective tool for dealing with inappropriate behavior when dealing with volunteers, or anyone else for that matter.


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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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