Partnerships Build Successful Programs

The Massachusetts General Hospital Volunteer Department staff is ready to serve as your partner in helping you design, manage, and maintain a strong and appropriate volunteer program for your department.

We will work alongside you to:

  1. identify the appropriate role for the volunteers in your department
  2. draft a volunteer service description that lists the daily tasks, competencies, and training you require
  3. strategize about the volume of volunteers/number of shifts that would best support your department
  4. recruit appropriate candidates and customize the "signing on" process to meet your department needs
  5. work with you as advisors and partners on corrective action concerns
  6. set parameters and work in partnership with you should it become necessary to dismiss a volunteer from the program

Supervising Volunteers

FAQ for Supervising Volunteers

What is the "Volunteer Department Partnership"?

The Volunteer Department Partnership is our promise to work with you to safely and responsibly implement a volunteer program in your department. We are available to discuss the onboarding process with you. We are available to you for feedback, comments and assistance in the management of your volunteers.

How do you "manage" volunteers?

"Can volunteers be managed?" The answer is YES. Volunteer programs thrive when volunteers are welcomed and oriented to the departments in which they will serve, and when they are trained to perform and carry out the tasks identified in their service descriptions. It is important to provide volunteers with feedback from time to time about how they are doing and the contributions they are making.

Will hospital staff hesitate to supervise volunteers?

Sometimes they do. However, the Volunteer Department staff looks forward to working with you and your staff about concerns about working with volunteers for the first time. The Volunteer Department staff is an available resource to you and your staff to help identify best practices for supervising volunteers and giving volunteers feedback on their performance. We are always available for conversations about topics as diverse as retention strategies to corrective action.

Who should supervise the volunteers in a department?

A nurse or staff member who you identify as appropriate for that role. The Volunteer Department is available to provide this individual with ongoing support and guidance.

Volunteers have service descriptions. Who writes them?

Service descriptions for a volunteer program are written in collaboration with the designated department staff and a Volunteer Department staff.

Do volunteers go through health screening and criminal background checks?

Yes. Volunteers are screened initially for Tuberculosis (TB). The exception is the person who had a BCG vaccine. They will be screened annually. They provide documentation of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccinations. Criminal offender background checks are initiated for all incoming volunteers. Volunteers are also required to get flu shot during flu season and may require additional medical screening depending on the department they are assigned.

If I want to have volunteers on my unit, what should I do first?

The best first step is to call the Volunteer Department at 617-726-8540 and speak with the Volunteer Department Director. Arrange a time to meet to discuss your program idea, learn about other successful placements in the hospital, and plan a reasonable time line.

Are there secrets to retaining volunteers?

Volunteers are giving freely of their time and talents, they desire only to be valued and recognized: Here are some suggestions:

  1. Pay attention to volunteers: Know their names; check in with them regularly and treat them with respect.
  2. Offer ongoing training and support during the year.
  3. Ensure that volunteers know and embrace a shared mission with your unit/department.
  4. Provide an environment that inspires confidence. Introduce a process (formal or informal) to solicit feedback from volunteers about ways to improve service and systems in your unit.

Can a volunteer be fired? And if so, who would do this?

Yes. Occasionally it may become necessary to release a volunteer from service to the hospital. A volunteer would be terminated from our program if he/she fails to meet hospital standards, violates an important hospital policy (such as patient confidentiality), does not carry out his/her volunteer assignment within the parameters of the service description, or refuses to improve his/her performance. Most often the department staff will meet with the Volunteer Department staff to discuss the service performance of the volunteer. Together they will decide if the volunteer department staff would meet with the volunteer alone or if the clinical supervisor and the Volunteer Department staff would meet with the volunteer together.

What do you do when staff and volunteers are not getting along?

When recruiting and interviewing volunteers, the Volunteer Department staff keeps in mind the needs of your program and helps volunteer applicants understand why they may or may not be suited for a placement. Occasionally, a volunteer may not be the best fit for your department. In these cases, the Volunteer Department staff will meet with the department staff regarding their concerns. The Volunteer Department staff (with or without department staff) will meet with the volunteer. They will come to an agreement regarding what is the best decision for both the department and the volunteer. If the volunteer's return to the department is not an option, a Volunteer Department staff member will offer the volunteer different options so that the s/he may continue his/her service to MGH.

What do you do when a volunteer can no longer perform the assignment in a department?

The department staff often meets with Volunteer Department staff to review the new limitations of the volunteer. The Volunteer Department staff (with or without department staff) will meet with the volunteer. They will discuss the limitations of the volunteer performance and the Volunteer Department staff member will identify another program more suitable for the volunteer so that the he/she may continue his/her service to MGH.

Can MGH employees volunteer?

Yes. We love having MGH employees as volunteers. We have many MGH employees who volunteer with us. MGH employees may not volunteer in the offices and departments in which they work.

I have some specific needs for my department? How do I know if volunteers are able to complete these roles?

Volunteer roles at MGH are hospitality-driven. Volunteers work within specific guidelines, have duties specific to their role at MGH and do have limits. These guidelines, duties and roles are all set before volunteers begin working in your department. Please contact the Volunteer Department at 617- 726-8540 to speak to the Volunteer Department Director about your specific needs. We can also provide you with a list of your colleagues who have volunteers in their department and may be able to provide some suggestions about volunteer roles and the day-to-day best practice operations of their volunteer program.

Requirements to Volunteer

  1. All volunteers must be at least 18 years of age and commit to at least 4 months of uninterrupted volunteer service.
  2. High school students who are interested in volunteering at Massachusetts General Hospital can learn more about our Junior Volunteer Program by calling 617-726-8540.

The volunteer onboarding process is as follows:

  1. Create an account using our online system (HealthStream).
  2. Sign on to our online system with their new account and read the virtual orientation document.
  3. Complete the required forms as indicated.
  4. Schedule and attend an in-person interview with one of our staff.
  5. If they are accepted into the volunteer program, they will:
    1. Complete a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI)
    2. Submit the medical [recent (within the last 3 months) Tuberculosis (TB) test result and two measles mumps rubella (MMR) or titer] and non-medical requirements (HIPAA and safety test) for volunteering
    3. Review descriptions of available volunteer service opportunities
    4. Determine their assignment
    5. Discuss each placement area training and on-boarding procedures

These requirements are designed to ensure a safe and healthy environment for patients, family and staff. If you have any questions, please contact the Volunteer Department at 617-726-8540.

Volunteers serve a minimum of three to five hours per week depending on the volunteer program at a regularly scheduled day and time for at least four consecutive months. Some MGH departments ask for longer commitments.