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

~December 2010~

It's Budget Time Again


Every January, a new year begins with a fresh start…and a new budget.  But getting to that new budget can sometimes be very troublesome.  In today’s health care arena with uncertainty around the impact of health care reform, there is no more “business as usual” for hospitals and health care institutions.  Even with GOP control of congress, little is likely to be accomplished in the way of placating the impact of health care reform.  Hospitals and health care institutions have to evaluate how they do business.  The organizations that survive will be those who creatively deliver quality health care in a cost efficient manner.  That means that nothing is off the table for consideration…and everything is up for re-engineering.

Those in Administration have the tough challenge of balancing the budget of providing quality services at minimal costs.  With salary costs the largest portion of budget expense in any business (healthcare included), it might appear as though the easy answer is to just do more with volunteers.  However, the regulatory environment in which health care operates dictates that utilization of volunteers in some clinical environments is easier said than done.  Factor in the labor law concept of replacing paid staff with volunteers and the entire idea becomes a nightmare.

While volunteers play a very integral role in the operation of many hospitals, the work and duties that they accomplish should be of the “supplemental” nature rather than “replacement” nature displacing paid staff.  I often refer to the department as the “lighter side of healthcare” because most of what volunteers do in today’s healthcare environment is focused on assisting patients, visitors and family members by answering questions, comforting people or helping people get to where they need to be in these massive buildings called hospitals.  With regulatory requirements tightening the circle of what volunteers are allowed to participate in, it’s not like it was 25-30 years ago.  There are just not many truly “clinical” things that volunteers are allowed to do anymore.

Which brings us back to the budget.  The volunteers that I see coming in the door want to give back, make a difference and have an impact on the patient care/experience.  In today’s litigious environment, those of us who have these jobs of engaging volunteers owe it to ourselves and our organizations to educate both volunteers and administration that while engaging volunteers may seem like the easy answer to budget problems, it’s really a shortsighted answer.  All the more reason that as a DVS, our challenge is to be able to carry and deliver the message in the correct manner so that all can hear and interpret it correctly.

Next month:  Speaking the correct language 


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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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