What does it mean to be a hospice volunteer?

May 17, 2018

Volunteer opportunities at Iowa City Hospice are as diverse as the patients they serve. Some provide service directly for patients and families while others do office support work, but all take part in providing dignity for patients as they near the end of their lives.

“My first experience with hospice was in the last days of my mother-in-law’s life back in 2009,” says Pam Jarvis. “I was very impressed with the warm, loving care they shared with my family.”

After this interaction, Pam decided to become a hospice volunteer herself.

“The other day I was driving home from an afternoon with a patient and I was just overcome with a sense of honor. This is a very fulfilling thing to do. It means a lot to the family for someone to be there with their loved one. It takes you completely out of yourself.”

Volunteer Coordinator Emily Moon hears stories like Pam’s time and time again in her training sessions.

“Quite a few of our volunteers came to us after a personal experience with hospice,” she says. “They feel it’s important to give back to others what they’ve been given.”

Volunteers providing direct patient care must pass a background check, take part in a 14-hour training program approved by Medicare and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, complete time sheets, and make a one-year commitment.

“This isn’t the kind of volunteer work you do on a whim,” Emily mentions. “There’s lot of paperwork and training and a significant time commitment. But rather than deterring people, we seem to draw the most committed volunteers. They’re willing to do whatever it takes to give our patients and families what they need.”

Beyond patient and family care, there is a wide variety of volunteer opportunities at Iowa City Hospice. Some interview patients to gather photos and stories for memory books and recorded narratives as a Legacy Project Volunteer. The “We Honor Veterans” program creates opportunities for patients to share their military experiences. Other volunteers may spend their time in our office assisting with administrative or development tasks, or out in the community providing education about our services. There’s even volunteers who work exclusively to care for patient’s animals as a Pet Peace of Mind Volunteer.

Anyone interested in volunteering at Iowa City Hospice begins by completing an online volunteer application. You will indicate your areas of interest and availability. Hospice is the type of care being provided, not the location, so hospice volunteers work with patients and families wherever they are, including private homes, long-term care facilities and hospitals.

Hospice volunteers perform ordinary acts in an extraordinary time in people’s lives. For many, their volunteer time is simply spent sitting and talking with a patient, offering them a smile or a hug. But those simple interactions take on new meaning, providing dignity and joy in the twilight of an individual’s life.