How to unlock the hidden potential in hospital volunteers

The comments section is closed.

  • Julia says:

    As a student who has volunteered in several Toronto hospitals, one issue that I have often come across is the lack of responsibility assigned to volunteers. Frankly, it is a bit insulting and disheartening, we contribute our time and there is so much more that we could be doing, but are often given small tasks, and spend the remaining time looking to the end of shift as there isn’t much else to do. Perhaps it is only at the 3 hospitals where I’ve volunteered at, but it is a common experience of other volunteers as well who I’ve interacted with. I think in the end it is both a loss for the institutions, in losing potential as this article describes; but also for the students, as it leads to a non-fulfilling experience.

  • Michele Rondot says:

    What a great article – as a Volunteer Manager for the Calgary Zone of Alberta Health Services, I have a portfolio of over 5,000 volunteers engaged over 5 large acute care sites, 8 rural sites, and community. We are seeing an ever increasing match between volunteer involvement and patient satisfaction (anecdotal) as well as engagement of volunteers as advisors for numerous committees at various levels of my organization. We do struggle with the issues identified above (including organizational understanding that volunteers sign the same confidentiality agreement as all other staff, ongoing support of the volunteer on the unit and inclusion with the health care team), but slow progress is being seen. We also struggle with recognition of the volunteer contribution, but not because their value is not recognized by AHS. There are various organizational initiatives underway to address this complex issue. I am looking forward to see where this work goes!!
    PS – Andreas – Calgary Zone actively recruits retired health care staff, so there is a place for you to volunteer to use your talents, your life experience and your education.

    • Joanne Fine Schwebel says:

      Hello Michelle. The issue of recognizing the value of the volunteers is an on-going one. We need to make sure we our work is aligned with the mission and vision of the organization and that positions are created to address real needs with outcomes! Our staff need to create measurable outcomes when creating positions, if possible.
      Check out the website http://www.measuringtheimpactofvolunteers.com where I am part of a group of colleagues collaborating to gather and share information on measurement and impact.
      Please let us know what initiatives you have and we can create a great community for sharing ideas and leading practices!

  • Audrey says:

    Sorry, I neglected to say why do retired health care professionals not volunteer. It would give a chance to really connect with patients. Paid professionals seldom have time to be emotionally supportive.

    • Andreas Laupacis says:

      Hi Audrey. I don’t know what the frequency of retired health professionals volunteering is, but I will be retired in the not too distant future, and I have started to think about whether I want to volunteer in health care. Whether I do so or not will depend upon what the hospital or agency I might volunteer at will allow me to do. Some won’t tell me the patient’s diagnosis when i start my shift (because of concerns about confidentiality), won’t allow me to feed a patient, won’t allow me to take the patient outside in a wheel chair for a breath of fresh air (or a smoke), etc. At the risk of sounding self centred, that makes me feel like my “talents” aren’t being respected and would make me not want to volunteer there. Maybe that’s an issue for others as well.

  • Audrey says:

    My comment. Why is it that health care professionals do not volunteer.


Michelle Nelson


Michelle Nelson is a research scientist at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute. She researches the design and delivery of rehabilitation services, with a keen interest in the role of volunteers. Her research is generously funded by Manulife. 

Juliana Yi


Juliana Yi is a PhD candidate in Health Services Research at the University of Toronto and research coordinator at Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute.

Joanne Fine Schwebel


Joanne Fine Schwebel is the director of the Volunteer and Interpreter Services programs at Mount Sinai Hospital and is co-author of the recently published book “Measuring the Impact of Volunteers: A Balanced and Strategic Approach.”

Republish this article

Republish this article on your website under the creative commons licence.

Learn more