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HEALTH CARE VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS

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

~May 2010~

Whose Problem Is It Anyway?

WHOSE PROBLEM IS IT ANYWAY?

In a recent post on an online discussion group, there was a question asked about what to do with a volunteer who exhibit signs of diminished capacity either due to age, mental health, physical challenges, etc.  These questions always surprise me – not because someone is asking…but because the answer is simple.

As I was first getting into the field of volunteer management, I was taught that in order for the program to carry the stature it is due, there should not be much differentiation between how paid staff and volunteers are treated.  In other words, if you want your volunteers to be part of the “staff,” then you should treat them like part of the staff.  That basic concept also includes dealing with those difficult issues such as diminished capacity.  How does the organization deal with that issue when it comes to paid staff?  Can the duties be re-configured to allow continued involvement?  Can someone work together or alongside so the person still feels useful and functional?  Or, given the situation, is that too impractical? 

The first place to go for guidance would be the human resources department.  Talk with them and determine what policy/standards are in place when dealing with this situation for paid staff.  If you feel the need to have something in writing, the policy should reflect the same tone as the one for paid staff.

For those in healthcare, the concept of competency has been helped along by regulatory compliance requirements.  Most healthcare organizations have competency check-offs for everything, usually done annually as part of the mandatory educational requirement.  Human resource professionals say that whatever is in the evaluation should not be a surprise to anyone.  In other words, feedback (whether positive or negative) throughout the year is a good thing.

Consequently, as evaluations go, there should never be any surprises when it’s time to sit down and discuss the quality of work during the annual performance review.  If we’re doing a good job of keeping in touch with volunteers, checking up on the quality of their work should be part of that check-in.  So, it should come as no surprise to the volunteer that they are struggling. 

 


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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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