Archive for December, 2007


December 18, 2007

Volunteers are such a vital part of healthcare and the success of many organizations. I asked one of our Studer Group experts, Lynne Cunningham, to share her suggestions on how to integrate volunteers into the organization.

Maximizing the potential of your volunteers as your organization continues its service and operational excellence journey

– by Lynne Cunningham

Years ago, I chaired the Board of a volunteer organization in my community. Our executive director told us that everyone was “staff” – some were paid and some were volunteer, but there was no difference in the importance of the role each person had. Do you have that same philosophy when it comes to the volunteers in your hospital?

“If you are going to realize the potential of the women, men and teenagers who volunteer in your hospital, they need the same service excellence training that you are providing for your staff,” says Dian Hartmann, a Director of Volunteers for 12 years and now a hospital volunteer herself for 2 ½ years since her retirement.

Initial training and periodic training updates need to be designed and targeted for your volunteers. The training needs to be required for all volunteers. Validation that volunteers are using their service excellence skills needs to be the responsibility not only of the Director of Volunteers, but also of each leader in the areas where volunteers are providing service. The range of duties that volunteers can provide will vary but may include Information Desk, delivery of flowers and mail to patients, providing information in the Surgery Waiting Room, serving coffee to visitors, visiting patients, assembling packets, running errands for patients, or just listening and talking to patients when the volunteer has had similar experiences.

Hartmann recommends two hours of initial training for all new volunteers and two hours for training updates at least annually. “Training needs to be required for all volunteers so the sessions need to be offered at a variety of times.”

So how can you apply the Must Haves® to your volunteers?

  • The Director of Volunteers, as well as other leaders, need to Round for Outcomes on volunteers to ensure they are rewarding and recognizing efforts, solving problems, and being open to questions the volunteers are afraid to ask of professional staff.
  • Thank You Notes are an excellent way to recognize special efforts of volunteers and should be initiated by the Director of Volunteers and any leader or group of staff where the volunteers work.
  • Key Words, especially AIDETSM, are also important for volunteers. Volunteers should be using your organization’s standard Key Words like “Is there anything else I can do for you?” and wayfinding. Volunteers who are interacting with patients and family members can help reduce anxiety when they use AIDET skills and Acknowledge the patient, Introduce themselves with their role and experience, discuss the Duration or time they will be with the patient or when they will provide the next surgical update, Explain what they will be doing while with the patient, and Thank the patient for choosing the facility.
  • Selection skills also apply to recruitment and interviewing volunteers. Volunteers should be trained to conduct peer interviews and then welcome their new colleagues when they first start their volunteer assignment. 30 and 90 Day Meetings can also be done by the Director of Volunteers and other leaders in areas where volunteers are assigned to minimize turnover.
  • It may not be a Must Have, but Employee Forums are a key opportunity for the CEO to communicate with all staff – whether they are paid or volunteer. A special session may be offered to the Board of your volunteer organization, but all volunteers should be encouraged to attend an employee session and their attendance tracked just as you do for your paid employees.

Hartmann acknowledges that it takes more than coffee and cookies to get volunteers to training today. “There needs to be mutual respect from the hospital staff and leaders. Volunteers need to feel they are part of the team.”

What’s the Return on Investment (ROI) for this additional training and ongoing partnership with your volunteers?

  • Applying the recommended Must Haves of Rounding, Thank You Notes and Selection to volunteer recruitment and selection will result in less turnover of volunteers. That saves time and money for interviewing, training and testing.
  • Training volunteers to use AIDET and other Key Words will support your efforts to decrease patient anxiety and improve compliance.
  • Ensuring volunteers listen for Service Recovery opportunities will help identify patient and family concerns at the earliest point before the patient leaves the hospital.

I hope these tips will be helpful to you as you work with your Director of Volunteers and the leadership of your volunteer organization to maximize the potential of this critical part of your work force.

Lynne Cunningham
Studer Group Coach



December 7, 2007

Passion — it keeps on going even when it is uncomfortable.

As I ended the November “Taking You and Your Organization to the Next Level” in Denver, I reviewed with the participants the items we had discussed: increased accountability, standardizing best practices, staff and physician engagement, post-calls, physician preference cards, addressing performance issues, Key Words at Key Times — just to name a few.

I shared that none of these were easy for me at the start. Some still cause anxiety. So, why would one do difficult things that are not easy and are uncomfortable? Because the passion to make health care better fuels us to do things that are not easy. Passion keeps us moving even when it is difficult and uncomfortable.

The week ended with me spending the day with over 100 physicians who practice in Centura Hospitals in Colorado. These physicians took the day away from their practice. I was once again struck with their passion for health care. What keeps a person going with the challenge of medical school, residency, the challenges of working long hours, and, at times, telling patients and their families information they wish that they did not have to share? It’s passion.

At 56 years of age, I continue to be in awe of health care difference makers. Yes, tools, techniques, medications, and training are wonderful and a necessity. But, passion is the constant that keeps our souls alive to continue to serve others.
In the end, I believe that we did not choose health care. Health care chose us.