Even within the borders of a single city, the requirements for volunteering in a nursing home can vary. Each individual nursing home has its own activities program and its own set of rules. The easiest way to determine the requirements for nursing homes in your area is to find a facility where you would like to work and contact the activities director.
For positions held by high-school-age volunteers the responsibility level is low. Typically, no formal training is necessary, but a general orientation given by the nursing home staff may be required. However, the majority of positions working with hospice patients -- even as a volunteer -- require some sort of training. The amount of training is dictated by the individual nursing homes.
In general though, here are a few guidelines you can follow when considering nursing home volunteer employment:
- For any job in a nursing home, you need to love being around older people. The main purpose of volunteers in a nursing home is to engage the residents, and you'll do this best if you're enjoying yourself.
- Do you know how to play bridge? Canasta? Because playing cards is a much more mental activity than a physical one, nursing homes are always looking for volunteers who are good card players.
- Some positions, even those with low responsibility, can have age stipulations. A common age requirement for high school volunteers is 15 years or older.
- Can you steer a wheelchair? Responsible "drivers" are often needed to transport residents to the departments within the home.
Some volunteer positions require a little more training than others do -- especially when you'd be working with hospice patients. Working with someone who doesn't have much time to live is not something you can just jump into. You need to be mentally ready. To find out how you can get the training you need to volunteer in a nursing home -- and be a hospice volunteer -- see the next page.