Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Nursing Homes and Hospice Organizations, How Can Students Serve You?

Note: Winner of the National Service-Learning Partnership Trailblazer Award, Frances Shani Parker, a national consultant and former schoolwide service-learning principal, has been instrumental in implementing service-learning in school districts across the country. Her book Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes includes a chapter on intergenerational partnerships between schools and nursing homes.

Nursing homes and hospice organizations, how can students serve you, at your locations or elsewhere, under the supervision of their teachers or service coordinators? Service-learning is a teaching and learning approach that connects classroom learning with meeting community needs. For example, after learning how to write letters, students extend that learning into the community by writing real letters to nursing home residents, if that meets a need at that nursing home. Everyone involved benefits from the experience. As a former school principal of an urban public school with all 600 students involved in service-learning, I know how successful this approach can be.

Hospice organizations, most students have no idea what hospice is or the role students (K-college) can play in supporting you in the office or elsewhere. This kind of early hospice involvement with young people will do a lot to promote hospice on a long-term basis. While student involvement in nursing homes is more well known, perhaps the kinds of involvement can be extended. This is how students are introduced early to healthcare career choices in fields that have serious staff shortages today.

So, what are your needs? These are the grade-level categories to consider:
Elementary School, Middle School, High School, and College
If you would leave me a few comments stating what students in any or all these grade-level categories can do that would meet needs of nursing homes or hospice organizations, I will compile this information and pass it on to teachers and service coordinators I consult with across the country. Please state the grade-level categories and the service students can perform.

This is a sample response that you can write at the bottom of this post on the right. Just click "Comments" (next to the pencil).

1) Your Name or Name of Organization, City/State (all optional)

2) Grade-Level Category (elementary school, middle school, high school, college) You can choose more than one category.

3) Student Service Activities:

We need students to provide these services:



Thank you for your participation in supporting service-learning partnerships. There is a chapter on school partnerships and nursing homes in my book,Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes.You can also read more about service-learning at this previous post titled “Service Learning and Nursing Homes: Intergenerational Partnerships.”

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog


  1. At VITAS Innovative Hospice Care® we have many activities in which student volunteers can participate. Listed below are examples of how students can volunteer in a hospice setting. For more details about VITAS, visit our web site at

    Elementary and Middle School students:

    • Make greeting cards and/or placemats for holidays, Veteran’s Day or at any time;
    • Make fleece comfort pillows or other items;
    • Bake holiday cookies or other treats for patients/families;
    • Make care packages for patients, such as decorated bags with bottled water; cookies, crackers, tissues, gum, candy, reading material;
    • As a group, students could visit a patient’s home, nursing home or assisted living facility to sing songs or play games (checkers, chess, bingo, etc.) with patients.

    High School/College Students:
    • In-office administrative work including filing, faxing, preparing admission packets;
    • At nursing homes or assisted living facilities, volunteers can host tea parties and other socials and provide one-on-one time and attention by reading to, writing letters for, playing games with or simply talking and listening to patients;
    • Over age 16, students can be considered regular patient care volunteers and after training, take on a wide range of VITAS volunteer opportunities, including music therapy, Paw Pals pet volunteer program, in-office assistance, general patient visits. This is a great time to give students hands-on experience in healthcare-especially if they are considering careers as a medical assistant, CNA, nurse or doctor;
    • Students can assist families with yard work, cleaning out the garage, planting flowers, small paint jobs and home building projects (i.e. wheel chair ramp);
    • Students can also assist patient and families by doing errands, such as walking the dog, picking up groceries, raking leaves, etc.

  2. Thank you, Rebecca, for taking the time to write your detailed response. I will share this information with service learners. VITAS is providing wonderful opportunities that support students in their efforts to perform hospice service.

    Frances Shani Parker