Hospice Volunteers at St. Luke’s

Hospice Volunteers at St. Luke’s

Hospice Volunteers at St. Luke’s

When a St. Luke’s hospice patient wanted to go to a Twins game with her church group, her pastor was concerned that she would require too much care over the course of the day. “One of our volunteers went with her,” says Marilyn Fifield, volunteer coordinator for St. Luke’s Hospice Duluth®. “They spent twelve hours together (not the usual!), and both had a wonderful time.”

Volunteers play a key role at St. Luke’s Hospice Duluth, where home care, inpatient care and bereavement follow-up are offered for terminally ill patients and their families. The need for volunteers is greatest in hospice home care.

“With hospice home care, there is someone to handle the medical, but we need volunteers to help with other things, such as sitting with the patient, brightening their day,” says Marilyn. “Many times families don’t want to leave the bedside, but having a volunteer there frees up the family for a break. Family can run out and get groceries, work in their garden, do errands, meet with their book club, or meet with their friends at the coffee shop. These are the things that are important for helping the family members.”

Specialty volunteers

If you can cut hair, play music, sew or have some other talent, your services are in high demand. “We currently have harp, flute, dulcimer, accordion players and a guitarist/singer, but we never have enough music volunteers,” says Marilyn. One volunteer sews cushion covers for wheelchairs to make the seats more comfortable, and sometimes volunteers are needed to take in clothing for patients who have lost weight.

“Just when I think I know all the ways a volunteer might be used, the nurses will have a request and we find new ways,” says Marilyn. Over the months, volunteers may develop wonderful relationships with patients and families. “Sometimes, you get a series of patients who die in a day or two and so you don’t get to make that connection,” says Marilyn. “Short interactions, though, can be special and intense. That’s why it’s so fulfilling. You are meeting new people and new families all the time.”

Training and support

Hospice volunteers receive special training on the physical, psychosocial and spiritual aspects of hospice care. “We start with a two-hour interview, before training, to see what losses people have had in their lives,” Marilyn says. “After the interview, if they want to continue, they go through training and we evaluate again if they still want to volunteer. It’s very personal for people. “

Volunteers are asked to give two to four hours a week and are assigned to either hospice home care or the hospital inpatient setting based on their interest. Current volunteers range in age from 18 to 80, and many have been with a program for 10 to 15 years. Federal law requires that at least 5% of the patient care hours in hospice be provided by volunteers. “We have always met the 5% requirement and have been as high as 9% some months!” says Marilyn. "That’s another reason we always need volunteers.

“Patients, families and staff appreciate the volunteers so much,” says Marilyn. “Sometimes the patient is very ill and unable to communicate, but then you have the families and they are incredibly grateful. Many volunteers say they get back much more than they give.”

How to get started

Contact Marilyn at St. Luke’s Hospice Duluth for an application and reading materials. Phone: 218.249.6105 mfifield@slhduluth.com. To learn more about hospice volunteering, visit the Hospice Foundation website.

218.249.5555 | 800.321.3790

St. Luke’s, 915 East First Street, Duluth, MN 55805
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