Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Hospice Helpers: Volunteer Recruitment and Engagement Tips

The following guest post is adopted from the blog of Glatfelter Healthcare, NHPCO Strategic Partner. 

With the hospice volunteer requirement of five percent returning in January of 2024, now is a great time for hospice professionals to put on their volunteer recruiter hats.

Many hospices have found it challenging to keep volunteers engaged post-pandemic. National averages show that hospices lost between 30 to 50 percent of the volunteers they had before COVID-19 hit. Some hospices adapted by offering virtual volunteer opportunities, while others asked volunteers to perform hands-off duties such as writing notes or making items for patients from home. Now, many hospices need to do extra work to not only gain new volunteers, but to regain previous volunteers whose support slowed during the pandemic.

This blog walks hospice professionals through recruiting and retaining hospice volunteers, from hanging flyers to volunteer skill-building.

Targeting Potential Volunteers

Hospice volunteers span all ages, but one-third of hospice volunteers are between 41 and 64 years of age. Hospice providers have a significant opportunity in recruiting volunteers of younger generations to join their teams.

Below are 12 viable strategies for recruiting the next generation of volunteers:

  1. Ask young volunteers to recruit their friends and celebrate those volunteers who bring in others with special recognition.
  2. Offer a variety of schedules and volunteer options to accommodate the often-busy lives of young people.
  3. Reach out to leaders of local church youth groups, school clubs, and sports teams to generate interest.
  4. Meet the audience where they are—on social media. Keep an active profile(s), highlighting volunteer successes and advantages to generate interest. Ask volunteers to repost your content.
  5. Make it a mutually beneficial experience for volunteers by offering position titles, letters of recommendation, and development opportunities.
  6. Focus on the cause AND what’s in it for volunteers. Gen Z, in particular, is a passionate generation and will likely respond to calls of helping others. However, it’s still important to remind volunteers how service can benefit them—such as resume building, career education, and meeting new people.
  7. Things move fast in today’s world. Return prospective volunteer calls and emails within 24 hours so you don’t lose them to another organization.
  8. 60 percent of volunteers are moved to volunteer because of personal experiences. When marketing your volunteer opportunities, try to highlight the personal connections and rewards.
  9. Participate in job fairs.
  10. Hang flyers with QR codes at youth-centered community organizations and high schools.
  11. Present to nursing, social work, and other healthcare-related classes at nearby colleges and universities, as well as local youth groups and organizations.
  12. List your volunteer opportunities on

Screening Volunteers

Once you get interested volunteers and begin screening, consider the following about them:

  • Relevant skills
  • Degree of sensitivity
  • Level of comfort with the topics of death, dying, and loss
  • Willingness to complete required training
  • Time available
  • Ability to adjust to significant losses

Background Checks

Once you’re ready to bring someone on board, don’t forget that they are unpaid employees and will need a background check. Criminal background checks must be obtained for volunteers in accordance with state requirements. In the absence of state requirements, criminal background checks must be obtained within three months of the date of hire for all states that the prospective volunteer has lived or worked in over the past three years. In addition to a criminal background check, it’s a good idea to have your own system of checks and balances, including:

  • Ensure volunteers who drive as part of their volunteer description have an acceptable driving record and adequate auto insurance coverage (review your state limits and follow internal policies).
  • Complete repeat background checks as per state guidelines. Adhere to a follow-up background check schedule. Some checks may need to be repeated after a certain number of years.
  • Create volunteer position “profiles” to map the skills needed for each position, as well as the risks each pose, to inform training needs.
  • Ensure volunteers are properly supervised, when appropriate.
  • Revisit the onboarding process from time-to-time to make sure you’re keeping up with best practices.

Nine Ways to Retain Volunteers

In addition to documenting your recruitment strategy, hospices should review and maintain a volunteer retention strategy.

Here are nine tips to keep your volunteers interested and engaged:

  1. Offer continual and flexible training and growth opportunities through additional responsibilities, where applicable.
  2. Appoint volunteer leaders and trainers.
  3. Encourage volunteers to keep sharing new skills with patients, such as writing poetry, learning an instrument, or reading a book.
  4. Show your volunteers some appreciation by sharing the value they bring patients and their loves ones.
  5. Emphasize the personal and professional growth volunteers often undergo.
  6. Remind volunteers that they’re needed. Being needed is a human instinct and something that makes everyone feel good.
  7. Ensure volunteers feel supported—personally and professionally—by checking on them if they suffer a patient loss and throughout the year.
  8. Encourage volunteers to take ownership of their work, such as offering new ideas for patient engagement activities.
  9. Highlight volunteers and their work in local newspapers or on local tv news, encouraging them to continue and inspiring new volunteers through storytelling.

Volunteer Accident Coverage

It’s important to think about the risks associated with having volunteers serve your patients and their loved ones. Having insurance coverage, like Glatfelter’s Volunteer Accident coverage, can help cover providers in the event of volunteer accidents or injuries. Volunteer accident coverage also covers unexpected and unreimbursed medical expenses that occur from an accident while volunteering and provides a lump sum benefit when a volunteer suffers a serious injury.

Hospice began as a community initiative and remains a community initiative. Through smart recruiting and retention, hospices can keep their volunteers’ attention, ensuring they’ll have, and help create, life-changing memories for years to come.

Friday, February 16, 2024

One Year in Hospice Care: What Jimmy Carter is Showing Us

By Ben Marcantonio, NHPCO COO and Interim CEO

February 18, 2024 marks one year since President Jimmy Carter began receiving hospice care at home and generously shared that information with the American public. In that year, President Carter and his family have continued to share pieces of their experience with us, helping to shape the public’s understanding of what hospice care can offer patients and families. They have brought hospice care into the public eye and into our national conversation to a degree that rarely happens.  


The Carters spearheading this change in awareness aligns with the many ways in which they have impacted public health throughout their lives. Rosalynn Carter’s focus on mental health shifted the dialogue in the United States, and the positive ripples of her work continue to inform our approach to mental health today. The Carter Center has led the global effort to fight Guinea worm disease, and it is now on the cusp of being the second-ever disease to be eradicated. And, it was under President Carter’s leadership that the idea of government-supported hospice care was first tested. That demonstration project led to legislation, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Reagan, that formalized the Medicare Hospice Benefit. In other words, with hospice care, President Carter is living the last stage of his life in a way that matches his values. As President Carter’s grandson, Jason Carter, recently said about his grandfather’s end-of-life journey: “He is living this part of his life, as part of that same faith journey that he’s been on for his whole life.” 


The hospice structure President Carter helped create has enabled about 30 million Americans over four decades to choose the support of hospice at the end of life. Of course, not everyone who receives hospice lives for a year. Six percent of patients are in hospice care for 365 days or more, while 10% receive up to two days of care and 25% receive up to five days of care. Hospices help patients at any length of stay, but President Carter’s story reinforces something we hear so often from patients’ families and from hospice providers: the wish that more people found hospice earlier, so they could benefit from more care and support 


Over the years, Americans’ awareness of hospice has grown, and more people have chosen hospice care. Today, about 1.5 million Americans make that choice each year. It’s reasonable to assume that the Carters’ choices to receive hospice care and to share that information with all of us will mean that more people consider and choose hospice as an option for their own end-of-life journeys.  


What will it mean if more people choose hospice? Let’s look to the Carters as a guide. We know some of what President Carter’s life has been like over the last year. At the beginning of his care, he would have had conversations with members of the hospice interdisciplinary team (including medical, social, and spiritual care professionals) about his values and goals for his care. The hospice team would have developed a care plan tailored to the patient based on those conversations. If he is experiencing pain or discomfort, we know the hospice team would be working to minimize the pain or discomfort, and to make him as comfortable as possible. His care would be overseen by a physician specializing in hospice care, and he would be visited and checked on regularly by hospice nurses, aides, and volunteers, and very likely by social workers and spiritual caregivers (if that was part of his individualized care plan), and possibly by specialized therapists such as massage or music therapists.  


From stories members of the Carter family and friends have shared with the press, we know President Carter, the longest-living president in American history, has been enjoying his favorite treat: peanut butter ice cream. During baseball season he watched his beloved Braves on TV. He watches the livestream of his niece teaching the Sunday school class that he used to teach. We know he has had visits, calls, and prayers with friends, including Ambassador Andrew Young, and several-times-per-week visits from Jill Stuckey, the superintendent of the Jimmy Carter National Historic Park. President Carter’s children have a rotation for spending time with him.  


He has continued following the news and current events, and has even thought about ways he might be helpful to advancing peace, something he has done throughout his life. In October, President Carter celebrated his 99th birthday. Tributes, well-wishes, and accolades poured in from around the world, and we know he was able to enjoy those. Similarly, President and Rosalynn Carter celebrated their 77th wedding anniversary in July. We know that while she was still living, the two of them spent much of their time sitting next to each other in the living room of their longtime home in Plains, GA, holding hands. When Rosalynn Carter died in November, we all watched as President Carter traveled and attended services to celebrate the love of his life and honor her memory. Those photos and videos were a testament to an incredible love story and to the inner strength of Jimmy Carter. They were also a powerful visual of what is possible when someone has the right care model, including the support of hospice.  


President Carter is showing us an amazing example of what it means to live out the end of one’s life in a way that is in keeping with the entirety of one’s life, and to experience life to the fullest, even as you prepare to die. What that means is different for everyone, as we are all unique individuals, but we should each have the opportunity to create the end-of-life journey that is right for us. Hospice care does that for millions of Americans 


Please join NHPCO in thanking President Carter for lighting the way for all of us. Learn more here and share your thoughts on social media using the hashtag #CandlesforCarter.  

Thursday, December 21, 2023

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s 2023 In Review

The year is coming to a close and it’s been a busy one for NHPCO staff and members across the nation. While the NHPCO team is proud of the 2023 accomplishments outlined below, we didn’t achieve them on our own. Our work is made possible by our members, through support in the form of belonging to NHPCO, direct service on NHPCO committees, councils, and boards, and via ongoing feedback and participation in our various requests for input, networking calls, office hours, and online courses. While there is far more to reflect on than can be captured in a short blog post, here are twelve standout accomplishments from the year.

Value of Hospice in Medicare Report

In March of 2023, NHPCO, in collaboration with NAHC, released research conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago which demonstrates patients’ use of hospice care contributed to $3.5 billion in savings for Medicare in 2019, while providing multiple benefits to patients, families, and caregivers. Access the report on this NHPCO webpage, read the press release, or learn about the congressional briefing on the value of the benefit held in July of this year. 

Former President Jimmy Carter’s Courageous Choice to Share His Hospice Election Publicly 

In February, Former President Jimmy Carter and his family chose hospice care for his end-of-life journey and announced this decision to the world. By sharing that choice publicly, the Carters have sparked a national conversation and countless private ones about the value of hospice. Read more about NHPCO’s NYC August event to acknowledge six months since former President Jimmy Carter entered hospice care and the most recent NHPCO Updater blog post by NHPCO’s Interim CEO, The Carters Are Showing Us What Hospice Means.

Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter have captured the hearts and mind of a nation and as a result, dozens of articles and episodes have been written and released addressing the myths and misconceptions of hospice care which have been invaluable in educating the public about the hospice benefit. A few standout examples include:

Program Integrity

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) acted on 17 of the 34 hospice program integrity recommendations NHPCO and other leading organizations made earlier this year to protect the integrity of the hospice community. NHPCO celebrated success on behalf of the ideals at the heart of the hospice—high quality, person-centered, interdisciplinary care.

1.      2023 NHPCO Annual Leadership Conference

As the first in-person conference NHPCO hosted since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the rebranded 2023 NHPCO Annual Leadership Conference (ALC2023) brought together over 900 hospice and palliative care leaders and aspiring leaders working to advance the field of hospice and palliative care. Read a summary of the conference’s events or learn about what ALC2024 has in store. 

1.      Hospice Action Network’s Hospice Action Week

In June, more than 70 hospice and palliative care advocates from across the country met with over 130 congressional offices to discuss key legislative and regulatory priorities for ensuring and expanding access to hospice and palliative care. The meetings were part of Hospice Action Week, hosted in Washington, DC by NHPCO and its advocacy affiliate, the Hospice Action Network (HAN). 

1.      Quality and Innovation Network Launch

In 2023, NHPCO launched a new quality program, the Quality and Innovation Network. This program brings together a community of providers committed to establishing a culture of quality within their organizations and facilitates collaboration across providers nationwide through monthly virtual working sessions and NHPCO’s expert support. 

1. Launches in Spanish is a program of NHPCO that provides free resources to educate and empower patients and caregivers to make decisions about serious illness and end-of-life care and services. In October, NHPCO announced the launch of the website in Spanish. All pages and advance directives on the website are available in translation and NHPCO will continue to translate any new site additions. 

We Honor Veterans Launches New Resource Webpages

In 2023, the We Honor Veterans launched two new website sections, Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy and Caring for Veterans and Women Veterans and End-of-Life Care. The psychedelic-assisted therapy page defines the practice, covers studies and emerging organizations in the field, catalogs other sites with additional information, and discusses some of the policy efforts currently underway. The women Veterans page, created in collaboration with Dr. Qwynn Galloway-Salazar – a U.S. Army Veteran – outlines the unique experiences and needs of women Veterans at the end of life, including unique risk factors, circumstances, and strategies for appropriately engaging these Veterans. 

1.      Project ECHO 2023 Series: Equity Where It Matters

Project ECHO is an innovative program designed to create virtual groups of learners by bringing together healthcare providers, subject matter experts, and the wider community using case-based learning and fostering an “all teach, all learn” approach. The 2023 NHPCO Project ECHO curriculum focused on inclusive topics addressing various aspects of diversity and cultural competence in healthcare. Individuals who completed the curriculum earned a certificate in diversity, equity, and inclusion for hospice and palliative care.

1.      National Hospice and Palliative Care Month – Courageous Conversations

The 2023 NHPCO theme for National Hospice and Palliative Care Month (HAPCM) was Courageous Conversations. The campaign encouraged everyone to engage in Courageous Conversations to start a meaningful dialogue on dying a good death, and NHPCO offered an extensive resource library to members who wanted to participate in the campaign. NHPCO enjoyed wide participation from members across social media and through local events. 

1.      New NHPCO Quality Member Resources

Throughout 2023, the NHPCO Quality and Regulatory teams were hard at work creating valuable, members-only resources on a wide variety of topics from workforce training to enable high-quality care to comprehensive guides that help your organization navigate reporting requirements. Review the list of top resources below and access all of these materials on the NHPCO Quality Resources webpage.

  • NHPCO Care Planning Primer and Tip Sheet
  • Telehealth Toolkit – best practices for Administrators and Clinicians
  • Interdisciplinary Hospice Onboarding and Orientation Guide
  • Charting a Course to Quality – A Consumer Guide to Publicly Reported Quality Measures
  • Charting a Course to Quality – HQRP Comprehensive Resource Guide
  • Measures of Excellence National Report
  • STAR National Report

1.      2023 Facts & Figures Report

In December, NHPCO published its 2023 edition of Facts and Figures, an annual report on key data points related to the delivery of hospice care, including information on patient characteristics, location and level of care, Medicare hospice spending, and hospice providers. NHPCO Facts and Figures is the leading resource for hospice providers and others interested in understanding the work of the community.


Looking to 2024, we are excited about expanding the resources and advocacy we provide the serious-illness home care community. In August of 2023, the NHPCO and National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) boards agreed to pursue a new, combined organization. All updates about the merger have been and will continue to be included on this webpage about the new organization. The webpage also includes a list of notable press.

As a united organization and community, we will be even better equipped to fulfill our mission of leading and mobilizing the transformation of care delivery to ensure equitable access to high-quality, interdisciplinary, person-centered care for those living with serious illness. In the meantime, as we work toward this future organization, NHPCO will continue to deliver expert resources, guidance, education, and advocacy on behalf of our members nationwide. We’re glad to have you along for the journey.