Saturday, June 22, 2013

Healthcare, Hospice Student Volunteers (Video 5:46)

Suncoast Hospice Student Volunteers

The first time I volunteered at a nursing home, I was a high school student. A smiling older woman savored applesauce I fed her. I still remember her joy whenever I eat applesauce. This scenario came about as part of my service activities in a school club I had joined. Many years later, I found myself volunteering in nursing homes again and enjoying it even more.

A former principal of a schoolwide service-learning school, I have no doubt that service activities positively impact many students beyond just getting hours needed to graduate, a requirement that didn’t exist back in the day when I was a student. In addition to building character, performing service exposes students to various careers in the healthcare field, improves their self-esteem, and empowers them with the knowledge that they can really make a difference in improving the world one person at a time. But good service is always a win-win opportunity for both the giver and the recipient.

Intergenerational service activities with schools partnering with nursing homes, hospice organizations, and other healthcare institutions can add wonderful layers of personal growth and satisfaction for everyone involved.

The following student activities, which may overlap, should be performed under the supervision of a teacher or coordinator after partners plan together and agree on needs to be met.

Elementary and Middle School Students 

1. Make biographical booklets of patients’ lives.
2. Make greeting cards and/or placemats for holidays.
3. Make fleece comfort pillows or other items.
4. Bake holiday cookies or other treats for patients/families.
5. Make care packages such as decorated bags with bottled water, cookies, crackers, tissues, candy, and reading material for patients.
6. Visit nursing homes to socialize with residents, showcase school-related activities, sing songs, or play games (Wii, checkers, chess, bingo, etc.) with patients.
7. Exhibit school projects such as artwork, photographs, science projects, booklets, posters, seasonal displays, etc.

High School and College Students

1. Do in-office work, including filing, faxing, and preparing admission packets.
2. Host tea parties, movies, and other social events.
3. Provide one-on-one time and attention by reading to, writing letters for, playing games with, or simply talking and listening to patients.
4. Videotape, record, or make booklets of patients’ life reviews.
5. Assist families with yard work, cleaning out garages, planting flowers, small paint jobs, and home-building projects (i.e. wheelchair ramps).
6. Assist patients and families by doing errands, walking dogs, picking up groceries, etc.
7. If the age requirement of an organization is met, train to become regular patient-care volunteers and take on a wide range of hospice volunteer opportunities, including music therapy, pet volunteer program, and general patient visits. This is a great time to give students hands-on experiences in healthcare, especially if they are considering careers as a medical assistant, nurse assistant (CNA), nurse, or doctor.

Note: Winner of the National Service-Learning Partnership Trailblazer Award, Frances Shani Parker, a national consultant, 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.

In this video, teen volunteers at Suncoast Hospice share views on their fulfilling service experiences.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog

1 comment:

  1. AnonymousJune 28, 2013

    Frances, thank you for another very interesting blog! I plan to share it with other volunteers.

    Ronee Henson