The Palliative Care Unit has its central location at 7JC, however it consists of patients found throughout the hospital. The patients seen by the Palliative Care team have challenging symptoms, difficult decisions to make, or ongoing grief due to losses from their serious illness. They may vary from conversational and going home to the acutely dying process.
Volunteer tasks include providing one-on-one companionship for patients who are alone and may benefit from having someone read to them, talk with them, or offer support by simply sitting quietly with them. Volunteers will also help by giving guidance about hospital services both to patients and to their caretakers, and by taking hand photos for patients and their family members.
Volunteers should feel comfortable with issues of serious illness, death and dying, and grief, as well as good communication skills including active listening and offering empathy. Volunteers who are self-motivated, interested in working with patients who are facing very difficult choices, and feel comfortable working with grieving families will have the most success.
Each volunteer attends unit orientation during which they will get more information and a tour of the unit, and training specific to Palliative Care, which includes shadowing an experienced volunteer. Volunteers are also offered ongoing training that emphasizes not only effectively providing for patients and family in this situation, but also how to care for themselves.
The dress code for this unit conforms to the Volunteer Handbook requirements. Palliative care volunteers are not required to buy a volunteer polo, but should dress in a business-casual outfit; many volunteers choose to wear khaki pants with a nice shirt. Volunteers must wear their Volunteer Services badge at all times.
Volunteers will be given a choice of a morning, afternoon, or evening shift that they will be required to attend once a week. Shifts are 2 1/2 hours long. Palliative care volunteers are also strongly encouraged to attend monthly one-hour training sessions, and are offered optional opportunities to attend conferences sponsored by Palliative Care members for UI Hospitals and Clinics staff.
Areas of Study Best Suited
This unit would be best for anyone interested in end-of-life care, aging, or gaining experience with patients and families that are going through difficult decisions, or have symptoms that have been difficult to manage.