SIUE Developing Model Hospice Training Program

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Southern Illinois University Edwardsville hosted one of the largest hospice volunteer training sessions on record Wednesday, Nov. 14, in the Morris University Center. Nearly 300 students signed on for the SIUE Hospice Volunteer Initiative.

Our hope is to greatly increase the number of hospice volunteer hours provided to local hospices in the St. Louis region.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville hosted one of the largest hospice volunteer training sessions on record Wednesday, Nov. 14, in the Morris University Center. Nearly 300 students signed on for the SIUE Hospice Volunteer Initiative.

Chris Herndon, associate professor in the SIUE School of Pharmacy and advisor for its Class of 2015, marveled at the turnout. “We are incredibly proud of this project,” Herndon said. “After checking with the national hospice leadership, we believe that’s a record number of participants in a training session. The students, who led the charge, should be commended for their organization and dedication.”

The overall goal is to increase hospice volunteerism among young adults to provide volunteer services to hospice organizations outside of the typical volunteer duties such as sitting with patients. SIUE volunteers have helped staff parades, fundraisers, and eventually will assist in providing video diaries, art and music therapy along with administrative clerical tasks.

“Our hope is to greatly increase the number of hospice volunteer hours provided to local hospices in the St. Louis region,” Herndon said. “We will rely on the efforts of our extraordinary, civic minded SIUE students to increase these hours.”

The hospice volunteer training is typically a full two-to-three days of on-sight, live training at the individual hospice programs, which generally have their own training overlapping with the students’ program.

Because the target audience is busy college students, training is streamlined to focus on the required competencies to provide the skills necessary for different levels of hospice volunteering. Some college students wish to help, but do not believe they are capable of sitting with or interacting with a dying patient. As a result, “training-lite” was created. It consists of six web videos and accompanying assessments that are each approximately 10 minutes in length. A live one-hour “kick-off” event follows to solidify and confirm the volunteers’ competencies.

SIUE’s approach to hospice volunteer training is setting a standard. Herndon said the University of Maryland is seeking to replicate SIUE’s model.

The student organizations executing the program include the School of Pharmacy Class of 2015 and the SIUE student chapter of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP). Dr. Miranda Wilhelm, clinical assistant professor in the School of Pharmacy, is the faculty advisor for the ASCP chapter at SIUE and played a significant role organizing the project.

Class of 2015 president James Langley has convened a committee consisting of classmates and ASCP members. They are Lauren Breden, Sarah Cooper, Adam Gummersheimer, Audra Hipsher, Amanda Jarrett, Lauren Kormelink, Nathan Lindley, Keith Marry, Laura Olsen, Shana Stein and Deni Trone.

The student volunteers fill a compelling need. Under Medicare guidelines, hospice programs must show that a minimum of five percent of all hours provided towards patient care come from certified hospice volunteers. Because of this, all hospices have robust volunteer training and deployment programs, but frequently lack the sufficient numbers or right match of volunteers for specific tasks. SIUE’s diverse student body not only meets, but also overcomes this challenge.

Additionally, the Department of Computer Science has chosen this project for its senior capstone project. Three seniors are developing a “smart phone” app streamlining communication between SIUE’s partner hospices and the trained student volunteers.

The Meridian Society provided a generous grant to fund the training videos, outreach efforts and shirts for the volunteers.

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Doug McIlhagga
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
314-402-8655
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