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Home General Information Becoming A Volunteer Volunteer Community For Managers & Supervisors Research Community
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Bobbie and Gloria work together in the Gray Family Surgical Waiting Area
Volunteer Department Partnerships Build Successful Programs
FAQ about Supervising Volunteers
Requirement to Volunteer at MGH
Annual Training and Health Updates for Volunteers
Annual Volunteer Awards & Recognition
Guidelines for Volunteers

The staff of the MGH volunteer department is professionally trained in volunteer administration. We stand ready to serve as your partner in helping you design, manage, and maintain a strong and appropriate volunteer program for your unit. So
metimes it is helpful to think about us as a human resource service to support you with your unpaid staff.

We will work with you to:

  • identify the appropriate role for the volunteers in your area/unit;

  • draft a volunteer job description that lists the daily tasks, competencies, and training you require;

  • recruit appropriate candidates and customize the "signing on" process to meet your needs;

  • provide monthly reports with volunteer names and volunteer hours given for your area in the past 30 days;

  • serve as a technical resource in supporting continuing education and annual updates for volunteers;

  • provide copies of exit questionnaires for volunteers leaving your area;

  • work with you as advisors and partners on corrective action concerns;

  • set parameters and work in partnership with you should it become necessary to dismiss a volunteer from the program.   Back to Top

MGH has over 1200 volunteers who provide service to the hospital each year. They contribute 150,000 hours of service. This is the equivalent of 72 full-time employees. Currently, volunteers range in age from 16 years of age through 99 years of age! They serve in over 40 different MGH departments, assisting patients, families, and staff in a variety of ways.

Some of our placements include::

  • Admitting- assist admitting staff with reception, pre-admission testing, and patient escort;

  • Cancer Center- provide comfort and support to outpatients and families during treatment;

  • Patient Escort and Discharge Service- act as an escort to patients upon discharge, provide information and assistance to hospital visitors;

  • Emergency Department- support patients, families and staff; deliver specimens, transport patients, interact with physicians and other health care professionals;

  • Gray Family Waiting Area- greet and support families, keep families notified of patient status.

  • Information Desks- provide information and direct people throughout the complex.

  • BookCart- circulate reading material to patients; visit with patients.

  • MGH Shops- General Store and Flower Shop. Respond to patient and visitor requests.

  • Office Support- provide reception and other clerical support with special projects in the Volunteer Office

  • Outpatient Services- provide support to patients and families in outpatient units such as the Radiation Oncology and the Cancer Center.

  • Patient Visitor- assist staff of nursing units and be a friendly visitor to patients.

  • Pediatrics- support child life specialists and nurses, read stories, play games, and provide companionship to young patients.

  • Radiology- support patients and staff in MRI, CT, Emergency and scheduling units.

  • Center for Perioperative Care - support and keep families informed of patient status; act as a liaison between the Day Care Unit and the waiting area.

FAQ for Supervising Volunteers

  1. What is the "Volunteer Department Partnership"
    The Volunteer Department Partnership is our promise to you to work with you to safely and responsibly implement a volunteer program in your unit or department. We will gladly walk you through the process from start to finish. We will then continue our support of your program by making ourselves available to you for feedback, comments and assistance in the management of your volunteers.

  2. How do you "manage" volunteers?
    Some people ask "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.

  3. Will hospital staff hesitate to supervise volunteers?
    Sometimes they do. However, the Volunteer Department staff looks forward to working with our MGH colleagues around natural concerns they might have when working with volunteers for the first time. The Volunteer Department staff will serve as a strong resource to MGH colleagues, identifying best practices, serving as a sounding board to help with feedback techniques, and always being available for conversations about topics as diverse as retention strategies to corrective action.

  4. Who should supervise the volunteers in a department or unit?
    A good candidate is a nurse or staff member who is considering career advancement and might be wondering if s/he is suited to a management position. Volunteer supervision/ management provides a good "first experience" in supervising others. The Volunteer Department would provide this individual with ongoing support and guidance.

  5. Volunteers have service descriptions. Who writes them?
    Service descriptions for volunteers are written collaboratively by the particular unit staff representative and a staff member from the Volunteer Department.

  6. Do volunteers go through health screening and criminal/sexual offender background checks?
    Yes. Volunteers are screened initially and annually for TB. They provide documentation of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccinations. Finally, criminal and sexual offender background checks are initiated for all incoming volunteers, just as they are for new employees to MGH.

  7. If I want to have volunteers on my unit, what should I do first?
    The best first step is to call the Volunteer Department [617-726-8540] and speak with the Program Manager. Arrange a time to meet to discuss your wish list, learn about other successful placements in the hospital, and plan a reasonable time line.

  8. Sometimes volunteers quit after a short time. Are there secrets to retaining volunteers?
    Mostly, it comes down to sound management practices, using principles an organization would adopt for its employees:
    • Pay attention to volunteers: know their names; and treat them with respect
    • Offer ongoing training during the year.
    • Ensure that volunteers know and embrace a shared mission with your unit/department.
    • 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.

  9. 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 our MGH clinical staff will meet with the Volunteer Department staff to discuss the performance of the problematic 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.

    The meeting should be private and last no longer than 30 minutes. It will be important to be clear and direct. The volunteer department staff has written policies regarding the dismissal of volunteers.

  10. 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 particular placement. Once in a while, personalities will not "match up" or mesh nicely. In these cases, the Volunteer Department staff will meet with clinical staff regarding their concerns. The Volunteer Department staff [with or without clinical staff] will then meet with the volunteer. They will come to an understanding regarding acceptable for both the clinical staff and the volunteer. If the volunteer's return to the unit 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.

  11. What do you do when a volunteer can no longer perform the assignment in a particular unit?
    Clinical staff often meets with Volunteer Department staff to review the new limitations of a particular volunteer. The Volunteer Department staff [with or without clinical staff] will then meet with the volunteer. They will discuss the tasks that have now become too difficult for the volunteer to perform, and the Volunteer Department staff member will offer new options so that the volunteer may continue his/her service to MGH.

  12. Can MGH employees volunteer?
    Yes they can, and we have several MGH employees who volunteer with us each year. There is only one condition: MGH employees may not volunteer in the offices and departments in which they work.

  13. I have some specific needs for my unit? How do I know if volunteers are able to complete these duties?
    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 unit or department. Please contact the Volunteer Department [726-8540] to speak to the Program Manager about your specific needs. We are also able to provide a list of your colleagues who are already utilizing the services of volunteers in their units. They will be able to give you a better idea of what the day-to-day operation of a volunteer program is really like.   Back to Top

Requirements to Volunteer at MGH
All volunteers are required to go through health and security screenings.

  • TB test that has been conducted in the past 90 days;
  • MMR [measles, mumps and rubella] vaccine;
  • Criminal and sexual offender background checks

These procedures are in place to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our patients, their loved ones, and our volunteers too.

Volunteers serve a minimum of three hours per week at a regularly scheduled time for at lease three consecutive months. Some MGH departments ask for longer commitments.   Back to Top

Annual Training and Health Updates for Volunteers
lIn order for the Volunteer Department to assure that patients and their families are receiving quality care from freshly trained volunteers, we hold annual skill trainings and competency reviews. In addition to attending these sessions, we also ask volunteers to go through an annual Tuberculosis screening. While all of the trainings and screenings are required for individuals to continue his or her volunteering at MGH, they are also free.

Annual trainings and competencies are as follows:

  • Wheelchair safety
  • Body Mechanics
  • Fire safety
  • Patient Confidentiality
  • Infection Control
  • Annual Medical Updates: Tuberculosis (PPD Reading)

   Back to Top

The Volunteer Service Pin
The Volunteer Service Pins are awarded to volunteers by the Massachusetts General Hospital annually in honor of the hard work and many hours of service donated to the hospital. The hour increments that the pins are awarded is as follows:

Volunteer Service Pin Award (hours)
100 500 1000 2000
3000 4000 5000 6000
7000 8000 9000 10000

In addition to these pins, special pins are awarded to volunteers who reach extraordinary levels: 10K+ 20K+ 30K+

  • Particular attention is paid to volunteers who had patients distinguish him or her from other volunteers.   Back to Top
  • Guidelines for Volunteers
    Supervisors are welcome to click onto the Guidelines for Volunteers - found in the MGH Volunteer Community section, to review policies regarding dress code, volunteer jackets, lockers, parking (cars & bicycles), meal tickets, time sheets, and letters of reference and recommendation.   Back to Top


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