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

~April 2010~



Working in a community healthcare setting has afforded many opportunities.  One of those includes the opportunity to be a part of the Leadership Hendricks County program where participants learn about the county, what it takes to make a community and a little bit about themselves in their quest to hone leadership skills.  Alumni are afforded the opportunity to stay in touch through a newsletter.  The current issue struck me as an appropriate topic because it touches on something that everyone can relate to.  Suzanne Whicker, the Executive Director writes:

“It seems like a simple five letter word “TRUST”: but not so easy to gain and sometimes so easy to lose. Over the past 18 years of leadership training, I’ve learned a few things about the word and the feeling.  As you join a new group, any time of your life, there’s a time of getting to know the others and learning their skills and strengths. You may learn they had a different path in their journey to this place in life when you intersected, but as you come to know these folks you hopefully gain a sense of appreciation for your differences. You may even gain a respect for those differences and use each others’ strengths for the betterment of the group……

Losing that TRUST is so easy and sometimes happens so quickly. When we stop communicating and appreciating others’ values and strengths, we slip … The quicker we can remember to respect the opinions, values and knowledge of others, the quicker we can begin to see success again and continue to build great communities.”

At this point you are probably wondering what this has to do with volunteer programs in healthcare, right?  We begin building trust at the first point of contact when a potential volunteer reaches out to us in our organization.  Trust continues to build on both sides through the volunteer process: through the interview, screening, orientation and training process.  That trust grows throughout the entire time the volunteer is active with your program.  Because trust is such an important aspect of our relationship with voluntees, it is something that needs to be protected. 

As a DVS, you owe it to your volunteers to keep them informed.  Keeping them informed means updates of new happenings and processes.  Sometimes it also means providing reasons why things may be changing.  For some of the volunteers who have been around the longest, that reasoning needs to be very clearly stated.  They often fall into the trap of “We’ve done it this way for so long, why does it have to change.”  And that can be especially lethal to the trust that has been build over the years.  Maybe you can craft a favorite phrase or analogy to employ when introducing change.  After all, starting an IV is different these days than 15 or 20 years ago.  Why would volunteers believe that nothing should ever change for them?

Volunteers play a part in the TRUST equation as well.  As a volunteer, their responsibility to the organization is to follow the guidelines, policies and procedures established even if they do not agree with them.  Sometimes that is just a matter of clarifying something.  But it could also be the trap of “always done it this way” that needs to be changed.  Either way, as Suzanne states, “Losing that TRUST is so easy and sometimes happens so quickly” often resulting in a no-win situation on both sides.

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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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