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


~June 2013~



In a recent leadership discussion where the topic was paradigm shifting – or thinking outside the box, the concept of heuristics entered into the discussion.  A heuristic is a mental shortcut that allows people to solve problems and make judgments quickly and efficiently. These rule-of-thumb strategies shorten decision-making time and allow people to function without constantly stopping to think about the next course of action. While heuristics are helpfuladderl in many situations, they can also lead to biases. 1

Add to this the concept of the Ladder of Inference where we live in a world of self-generating beliefs that are largely untested.  That is based on:

  • Our beliefs are the truth
  • The truth is obvious
  • Our beliefs are based on real data
  • The data we select are the real data

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions.  Is this not done every time a new volunteer wishes to participate with your organization?  Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer have been the leading researchers on emotional intelligence. In their influential article "Emotional Intelligence," they identify four branches of emotional intelligence:

  • Perceiving emotions
  • Reasoning with emotions
  • Understanding emotions
  • Managing emotions 3

So how does all this fit into volunteer management? In the discussion of paradigm shifting and heuristics that I mentioned earlier, I was challenged as to my use of heuristics when interviewing potential volunteers.  At the time, I responded with an explanation of 25 years of experience and gut intuition as a guiding force behind my decisions on whether or not to make a placement.  I have for a long time been a champion for our own intuition as a very real aspect of what we do.  While that might sound like a lot of “hooey,” the science behind it confirms that it is a combination of 25 years of heuristics, ladder of inference and emotional intelligence, thus resulting in the best placements for not only my organization, but also for the volunteer.

1 (http://psychology.about.com/od/hindex/g/heuristic.htm)
2 Senge, Peter et al. The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook. New York:Doubleday, 1994.
3 (http://psychology.about.com/od/personalitydevelopment/a/emotionalintell.htm)

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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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