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Junior Volunteers

Posted By Andréa Kennedy-Tull , Sunday, July 5, 2020

Like many of our healthcare colleagues, COVID-19 forced us to evaluate the relevancy of volunteer services.  IMarch, we suspended all volunteer activity throughout our system.  It was then that we recognized the potential of maintaining significance by pivoting to a virtual platform in order to maintain engagement with our staff and volunteers.  


Out of this realization, we created a virtual summer junior volunteer program.  We limited the program to 100 participants who had applied for our on-site program.  We then created a skeleton of what the program would look like and fleshed out the content and logistics of bringing it to life.


The program requirements included the following components:


  • Participants would contribute 50 hours of volunteer time. 

  • The program would be eight weeks in duration. 

  • Completion of online application, virtual interview and online orientation.  (4 hours)  

  • Program structure would have three key aspects: 


  • Leadership:  Mandatory weekly meeting with a volunteer manager.  Participants discuss competencies designed to help them develop skills to become better leaders.  (8 hours) 


  • Career Exploration:  Virtual speaker series with individuals throughout the organization speaking about different clinical and non-clinical healthcare professions. Junior volunteers are required to attend at least eight of these sessions.  (8 hours) 


  • Service:  A combination of mandatory and elective activities the juniors are required to complete.  A core service kit was provided that included materials for crafts that, would be distributed to our patients and staff. Materials to make masks, healthcare awareness event ribbons and greeting cards were the main items in the kits.  Juniors also partnered with our patient liaisons to complete one hour of virtual patient visits.  Personalized e-Greetings were sent to patients after visits.  The service component also included a list of optional service projects the participants could complete. With management approval, they were also given the opportunity to create their own service project.  (30 hours) 


  • All aspects of the program were conducted virtually.  Interactions with the managers, training and events were all completed virtually, typically through WebEx.  Delivery of kits and their return were all done in a contactless manner.  


The program has been favorably received.  After a virtual patient visit, a junior commented, “I enjoyed the experience…it gave me a front row seat to experience interactions between staff and patients and how best we could meet the patients needs.”  nursing administrator commented, The program is awesome!  It's innovative, educational, and engaging for the teenagers Similarly, a physician noted that the speaker series “has allowed the teenagers the opportunity to get a real-life perspective on different professions.” 


Participation at events and engagement with the service activities continues to be high.  There have been several lessons learned by our team:


  • Team Building:  Collaboration by the team was crucial.  The collective synergy that resulted from creating this innovative program highlighted the individual strengths of each manager for the greater good of our program and organization. 

  • Technology:  Virtual volunteering will be a permanent part of how we will provide services to our organization.  The technology learning curve was quick and steep, but manageable and necessary.   

  • Innovation:  While the external circumstances were not ideal, it has re-energized our thinking, forcing us to think more creatively about how we provide services.  Additionally, this new model has created excitement in our participants as they were being engaged in a new and different manner.


At a time when our clinical colleagues have been forced to provide care in a different and more innovative way, this virtual junior volunteer program has added credibility to our program, heightened awareness about our profession and laid the foundation for future innovation in the delivery of volunteer services.   

Andréa Kennedy-Tull is the Director of Patient Experience and Operations at Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, TX, part of Harris Health System. She holds a master’s degree in Business Management and a bachelor’s in Business and Spanish and is a certified administrator in Volunteer Services. Andréa has 25 years of experience in healthcare in the fields of Human Resources, Patient Advocacy and Volunteer Management. 




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