Hillcrest Health Services Gets It!

female volunteer with older woman

 

It is becoming increasingly evident that providing quality of life through “person-centered” care is as much about nurturing meaningful relationships, that include trust, intimacy and empathy between two people. Volunteers, properly screened and trained are in the perfect place to provide that level of care.  Hillcrest Health Services seems to get that!

On April 24, 2017 I had the pleasure and opportunity of meeting with Rachel Brandenburg, the volunteer coordinator for Hillcrest Health Services.  The following excerpts from that interview reveal Hillcrest’s strong support of their volunteer program and the impact it is having not only on the people they serve but the people who work there as well.|

Interview:
Paul:  Rachel thanks for taking time out of your very busy day to talk with me.  I’m in the business these days of highlighting great volunteer programs with the goal of inspiring other long-term service providers to make a serious investment in their volunteer program and I think after interviewing people around the world, I should probably take a look in my own backyard. And I think I found a great program right here at Hillcrest Health Services…and so what I’ve learned so far is that a great volunteer programs starts by hiring a great volunteer coordinator…

Rachel: Yes! And we are trying to be…we get a lot of great support here at Hillcrest. We are fortunate at Hillcrest to have a great team.  In addition to myself, we have Kaylee Chilton as our volunteer specialist, so really she is a second volunteer coordinator.  So there is two of us!

Paul: So tell me about your program.older woman playing with children

Rachel: We have multiple communities with teams of volunteers in each one.  As a result, we have multiple programs we lead in each but we also have a lot of support from the leadership from each community.

We have good volunteers too and we match them by their talents.  When we go into that interview process with a volunteer, we want to know what they want to get out of this.

We know all of their needs but we want to match them to what their needs are and so we utilize volunteers a lot for [administrative] office support, behind the scenes kind of things to help us with the program.  Our whole team gets good support. We are very fortunate.

Paul: As far as the staff, how do they feel about volunteers?  Do they feel threatened by them, do they feel like they are going to be replaced by unpaid workers? 

Rachel: In my time here at Hillcrest…we work with all the rec teams who are kind of the supervisors of the volunteer while they’re there…for us it’s just that continual education and really building the relationship.  

So I’ve been educating all our teams on this is what our volunteers can do to help relieve you when you’re in need…as a supportive factor…so I haven’t got too much pushback or I haven’t felt that they feel threatened. We have so much education that we’re trying to push out all of the time on how we can help them…I feel like that’s helped alleviate any fear that they may have.

Paul:  Ok. Well on the flipside, what kind of positive feedback have you heard?

Rachel: I don’t think that our teams really realized the help that a volunteer could provide until several of them had to go on vacation.  They were like “Wow, we didn’t have to worry about that!”  

Therapy dog on an older woman's lapPaul: So how many volunteers do you have?

Rachel: We are up to about 278 volunteers. We have over 300 but some are inactive because of life events. 

Paul: About how many volunteer hours did you have for 2016?

Rachel: About 12,000 hours. 

Paul: And then are their different tiers of volunteers, for example, those volunteers that come for special events as opposed to volunteers who are there weekly?

Rachel: We have special event volunteers so that would be more like casual volunteers that are on our roster, we have volunteers that come in and run Bingo every week, and the we have patient care volunteers that are there strictly for companionship care and then we have our hospice volunteers “no one dies alone” volunteers.

Paul: So volunteer training, what does that look like?

Rachel: So for someone like a group that’s just coming in only one time, we have them meet with the rec leader and the leader will go over HIPAA (privacy/confidentiality regulations). Then if the group wants to continue coming then they need to go through the process: the full interview process and orientation. 

Paul:  How do you recruit your volunteers?

Rachel: …we do career fairs…we link up with our HR team or our development team when they’re going out.  I have a pretty good relationship with a lot of churches and word of mouth has been the best recruitment tool for me. We also use online like our website and social media like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

Paul: Rachel it’s been great visiting with you and learning about the Hillcrest Health Services volunteer program.  I’m sure that the people who are staying in your communities benefit a great deal from the activities and the companionship your volunteers provide. 

Rachel: Thank you!

If you have a nursing home volunteer program that you think I should feature, let me know!  Just email me at: paul@voluncheerleader.com

Kristiansund kommune

As promised, VolunCheerLeader.com will highlight great volunteer programs and promote the idea that volunteers, i.e., “super” volunteers can take on increased responsibilities to become a trained and meaningful support for professional care staff who are often stressed and overworked, with residents, patients who suffer from what Dr. Bill Thomas calls the “Three Plagues: boredom, uselessness and loneliness.”

Daily, I’m on social media watching for hints of such programs and to my great Emilie Strømmen Olsendelight, this title appeared in Twitter: “Volunteer Service for Nursing Home Residents.” I immediately clicked on it, and Kristiansund kommune (2)discovered Emilie Strommen Olsen, senior program designer for DesignIt.  She and her team developed a nursing home volunteer program for a facility in Kristiansund, Norway.  I immediately emailed heKristiansund kommune (1)r and arranged a Skype interview with her and the administrator of the nursing home, Stephanie Helland. Stephanie Helland

Dr. Bill Thomas talks about the “Three Plagues of the Nursing Home, boredom, uselessness, and loneliness.”  This is exactly what was happening at Stephanie’s facility.  The residents were not engaged, they sat day in and day out with little or no activity.  The staff observing this, felt frustrated and sad as they were only able to meet the very basic needs of the older adults under their care.  Because of that Emilie says they would  express remorse, a sense of guilt because they felt as if they were not doing enough – that they couldn’t give the people what they really needed – time and friendship.  The families of the residents expressed the same sense of helplessness and ask:

Can’t someone do something about this?

Emilie took on the challenge and began with assigning some “homework” to the staff, the residents and the families.  She ask them: “What kind of volunteer services do you want?”  The answer was crystal clear:

“We want just one person to talk to and do “normal” stuff, not big activities where everyone participates at once.”

With that, then Emilie’s team went to work using the input she received from the three stakeholders.  It was critical that the staff be involved in this process early so as to get buy-in from the staff.Kristiansund kommune (5)

“It was really one of the success factors, that at the start, the staff was involved all the time during the process…so that they felt that they owned it.”

Emilie developed a matrix with staff member positions in rows and responsibilities in the columns.  Everyone had a role to play, in the process from interviewing the volunteer candidate to orienting them to the nursing home environment to Kristiansund kommune (1)assigning them to an area of the nursing home and finally staff and volunteers meeting periodically for followup.

Stephanie said that the implementation was very smooth. She laughed and said: “It was almost done without anyone noticing!”  A large chart was posted to inform both the staff and volunteers of their responsibilities, who would be volunteering that week and who they would be visiting.

During the test period, Stephanie did hear concerns from the staff that the volunteers might be taking over their tasks and thus eliminating the need for staff.  She assured them that this was not the case.  The volunteers were there to provide emotional support and meaningful activities that would promote their sense of well-being and quality of life.

Once the staff understood what was happening they began to realize that the volunteer was indeed opening up more time for them by occupying the residents.  The staff felt welcomed relief.

Kristiansund kommune (8)

Emilie and Stephanie highlighted some important lessons learned so far:

  1. Volunteers want to feel welcomed and appreciated.
  2. Volunteers want to be guided by the staff

As a result, one of the volunteer positions is to be the “volunteer greeter.”  As volunteers arrive for their visit, a veteran volunteer greets them!

Kristiansund kommune (3)Volunteers wear a button that has a red heart on it.  This way the staff and older adults know that this is a volunteer. The professional staff wear a button with a blue heart.

I asked Stephanie to describe the typical volunteer.  She explained that they are getting people of all ages, from 16 years of age and up, mothers on maternity leave who want to still feel like they can make a difference, and retirees who bring their skills and expertise to their volunteer experience.

One volunteer explained that he was in the process of looking for a new job, one that wouldn’t interfere with his nursing home visits.

“Volunteering is an emerging concept in Norway,” says Emilie.  “Places like Britain have a long rich history of volunteerism but for us it is a new trend. People are asking: ‘How can I be a resource?’ ‘How can I give to my society?'”

Kristiansund kommune (6)Finally, I asked Stephanie if the volunteer program has made a real impact.  “Definitely! We’ve seen changes in our residents. One of our patients with dementia will talk even hours later about the visit she had with her ‘buddy.’  Other patients will say:

Today my buddy is coming to visit me, only me, just to me…”

For the staff, Stephanie says there has been a definite change in the way they think about volunteers. They told me, “If we are going to prioritize some positions, we have to prioritize a volunteer coordinator, because that is such important work.

We’d rather you prioritize the volunteer coordinator than a nurse.”

For me, it was a great thrill to see this group discover the positive impact volunteers can have on the staff, on the people for whom they care, and their families and loved ones.  It’s important to note that the success of this program is due to querying the stakeholders, collecting their ideas, careful program development to address the expressed needs of the stakeholders, and then gaining the confidence of the staff through their involvement in program development from the beginning.

Thank you Stephanie for meeting the challenge and for being an important factor in the emerging idea that volunteers can make a real difference. And thank you Emilie for guiding them through this process. I’m sure there will be follow ups to this story!

If you known of a great volunteer program, please let me know.  Let’s come together, here at VolunCheerLeader.com to promote an expanded role for volunteers and the creation of what I call the “super” volunteer!

Feel free to email me with your VolunCheerLeader story at: paul@voluncheerleader.com

How do you recruit 800 volunteers?

art group in tawa

As you know, VolunCheerLeader  is on a quest to identify and highlight outstanding volunteer programs.  My journey is taking to me many different places to include Auckland, New Zealand.  Recently, while explaining my mission to someone they immediately piped up and said, “You have to meet Jill Woodward, CEO of Elizabeth Knox Nursing Home and Hospital.  After a series of emails, we scheduled a telephone call (Skype) and to no real surprise to me, the person who answered the call, Jill, was obviously full of passion, high energy and expert in her work.  I spent about an hour talking with her.  Later, I had the pleasure of meeting the Kristen O’Reilly, newly appointed to head Community Partnerships. Kristen was originally hired to develop the volunteer program for Knox.  Here are excerpts from my communications with them.  Read more…

Prior to the Nursing Home Reform Act…

Paul P. Falkowski PhD
Paul P. Falkowski, PhD

The history of volunteers and their role in nursing homes is of great interest to me at the moment.  I’m writing about the evolution of the volunteer role in nursing homes before and after the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987.

There is no doubt that the NHRA brought about significant and positive changes to the way older adults were viewed and how they received care.

However did we inadvertently hamstring nursing home volunteers in the process?

I think we did.  From my experience in training what I am now calling “super” volunteers, I’ve learned these volunteers could be doing so much more to support the nursing home staff.  All they need is quality training.  Over the years, I have reviewed the volunteer training literature of many nursing homes. I’ve discovered that not even the basics of the aging process are covered in that training or what the nursing home experience is like for the older adult much less adding training for certain skills.  And in many cases there is no training at all!

“There are people in our communities who have a strong passion for older adults and have a strong commitment to serve them.”

Looking at the current nursing home staffing crisis, can we afford not to take advantage of every resource that is available to us?  If providing “person-centered” care is truly our goal, then who is in a better position to provide that individualized attention? Even though care staff receive training in how to provide person-centered care, the stark reality is they don’t have time to provide that kind of care. Short staffing prevents them from doing so.

Volunteers have the luxury of time.

I need your help.  If you, or if you know of someone who worked as an administrator, director of nursing, volunteer coordinator, or activity director during the days prior to the Nursing Home Reform Act (prior to 1987), please have them contact me at: paul@voluncheerleader.com 

I want to learn as much as I can about the role volunteers played during those days and how their roles changed after 1987.

Thanks and have a great week!
Paul

Discovering volunteers as a work-ready resource for nursing homes.

 

Welcome!

 

Paul P. Falkowski PhD
Paul P. Falkowski. PhD

Delivering quality, “person-centered” care is a global need.  People from around the world will gather here to collaborate, and to promote the “super” volunteer, the “credentialed” volunteer for nursing homes.

Wherever there are nursing homes, whether in U.S. or the UK, there is a ever growing need for highly trained, highly committed, compassionate, passionate volunteers serving older adults in nursing homes.  For the foreseeable future, severe staffing shortages will jeopardize the ability of nursing homes to provide quality care.  But, there are people in our communities who care about the living conditions older adults are facing. They care very much.  They have the capacity to learn new skills.  They possess a strong passion for older adults and they are willing to be trained and serve along side professional staff, not to replace them, but to support them.   They do this as a way to give back to their communities while satisfying a deep desire to serve.

Volun-Cheer-Leader will spotlight people and organizations who share this same zeal and are already engaged in expanding the role of volunteers in nursing homes.  In addition, Volun-Cheer-Leader will present best practices, current research and guest bloggers.  This is an exciting start to what I believe is an ever increasing critical component in the delivery of long-term care.

Please join me by subscribing to this blog and join the conversation!  I’m looking forward to meeting all of you!  Please feel free to email me, offer your comments  and share you thoughts about creating “credentialed” volunteers for nursing homes!

Have a great week!

Paul