Training for Long-Term Care Volunteers Goes Online!

I am thrilled to announce that “Volunteering in Long-Term Communities” volunteer training is now available online!

My experience…

Over the years, I’ve had the extreme pleasure of training hundreds of volunteers in person, but what always lingered in the back of my mind was the question of reaching a wider audience. There are some 15,000 nursing homes in the United States, and many of them cannot afford to hire a dedicated volunteer manager, and if they do have a volunteer manager, it is likely someone splitting their time between activities and managing the volunteers. As a result, training the volunteers may  be limited by time and availability of the “trainer.”

My volunteer management experience taught me early on that managing volunteers is not a part-time job. It requires the volunteer manager to not only work hard to recruit volunteers, but it also includes providing meaningful training so that the volunteer feels prepared and is useful in their role.

Volunteers want training…

Volunteer training does not or should not stop after the initial orientation so providing ongoing training is essential for the volunteer to grow in their position. Research shows that volunteers want ongoing training. And finally, the volunteer manager must work to stabilize the volunteer force by putting processes in place that promote volunteer retention.

While I cannot solve the challenges of funding and time, I can develop volunteer training programs specifically designed for people volunteering in nursing homes and make them accessible to everyone and in their own time.  This makes the online training platform extremely valuable to volunteer managers and well as the volunteers.

From my experience in instructional design and teaching online gerontology courses, I have learned what people are looking for in an online course. Those same principles come into play as I design courses for the long-term care volunteer. The training should be “lean and deep,” meaning that the training material is presented in clear and understandable language using various learning styles and that it should be interactive to keep the “trainee” engaged and moving forward.

Online training…

In this new course, there are eight modules. The first module opens by giving context to the volunteer experience presenting the changes that are taking place in our population, i.e., that the number of people 65 years of age and older is exploding.  I want the volunteer to understand the magnitude of the need and statistics associated with the people they will be meeting.

However, I’m careful not to paint a “doom and gloom” picture as some do. Instead, volunteering is an opportunity for the community to become more deeply involved in the life of the nursing home to not only enhance “person-centered” care but to learn first-hand about career opportunities.

From there, the next module deals with ageism and the negative stereotypes that influence the way we view aging and older adults. For me, this is an exciting topic because by the end of this module the volunteer realizes that living in the nursing home is far more than just a “waiting to die” station but instead there is the opportunity for learning and personal growth.

The remaining modules present the various functions of a nursing home and levels of care, communications both verbal and non-verbal and of course, HIPAA, Resident Rights and most important what “person-centered” care really means and how the volunteer can support staff in the delivery of that level of care.

Next steps…

If you oversee the volunteer program at your nursing home then, please consider taking advantage of this online training by encouraging your current volunteers and new volunteers to take this course. Doing so will give them in-depth insight into the aging process and offer them new ideas for creating personalized activities for the people living in your community.

If you are someone that has been thinking about volunteering in a nursing home, this course will give you a solid foundation from which you can rely on and grow in during your volunteer experience.

There is nothing more damaging to a volunteer program than to launch people into a volunteer experience unprepared. More often than not, the volunteers become discouraged and likely do not return while you end up with a “revolving door” volunteer program.

Volunteers, adequately trained, stay on the job adding real value to your long-term care community. However, they need critical insight and tools for that to happen. The learning platform I’m using is user-friendly and is accessible either on your computer or mobile device. The modules are easy to navigate and follow a logical progression, building on upon the other.

Please share this article with the people you know that would appreciate having this resource available to them.  If you have questions about the training, feel free to contact me and I would be glad to talk to you.

 

“What about liability?”

One of the first questions I get from owner/operators of nursing homes concerning volunteers is, “What about liability?” 

volunteer reading to nursing home resident
My response: “What about it?”  How many people are working in nursing homes today who have never had a course in gerontology? How many people are on nursing home floors right now providing cares for which they received no training or the person before them “trained” them in “this is how I do it.”  How many lawsuits are currently being levied at long-term care facilities. Now before you send me your email about how many great people are working in nursing homes, save it.  I know this from first-hand experience.  In the 25 years or so of working with the long-term care community, maybe I’ve met five people who I thought were in the wrong job.

My point is that the answer to the liability question is “thorough vetting, quality training and treating and valuing volunteers as employees.” 

With that said, I know from experience that there are people in our communities that are willing to be thoroughly vetted and trained being motivated not by the need for income but rather their need to engage in a meaningful way by giving back to their communities while sharing a passion for serving older adults.  I would suggest that this person, this volunteer, will present less of liability problem than paid staff.  Now if you’re going to send me email about volunteers replacing paid staff, save it.

We’re now approaching 1.2 million vacancies in long-term care staffing.

The ship is sinking.  We need all hands on deck.  We need to take advantage of every resource that is available to us, to include what I call “trusted” volunteers.

Ok, go ahead send me your comments and emails anyway.

Really, I would like to hear your thoughts on this topic.  Email me at: paul@community-360.org