5 ways to use volunteers to improve patient satisfaction

Healthcare volunteers may hold the key to a better patient experience, according to a whitepaper published by the Beryl Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to patient experience improvement.

Volunteers, the white paper states, have a great impact on patient satisfaction because in many cases, at some point in their lives, they have also been patients or family members involved in the care of a loved one. "They can empathize and understand what a patient may need in that given moment in a way that a staff member may not be able to," researchers write.

Contributors analyzed the impact of volunteer involvement in healthcare settings and identified five key strategies that hospitals can use to make the most of volunteers and improve the overall patient experience:

Make a direct connection between hospital volunteers and patient experience: Healthcare leaders must understand the direct connection between increased use of volunteers and enhanced patient satisfaction scores, according to the paper.

Adapt volunteers' duties according to organizational needs: Pressure to improve care while cutting costs "has enhanced the benefits of using volunteers in healthcare setting and finding more innovative and diverse opportunities to create more patient-facing volunteer roles," the report states.

Incorporate volunteers' own experience: For volunteers to make a positive difference, the whitepaper states, it's vital that the experience be meaningful for them as well, much like satisfaction levels among nursing staff tie directly into patient satisfaction levels.

Quantify and measure volunteers' impact: Further evidence is needed to determine exactly what volunteers mean to patient experience, according to the paper. For example, organizations can gain a better understanding of the true value of volunteers by tracking the time volunteers contribute and the cost associated with volunteer programs, as well as the impact on patient satisfaction.

Foster relationships within the organization to enable volunteer programs: Relationships between volunteers and both patients and hospital leaders must be strong enough to build the necessary trust to bring these results to fruition.

To learn more:
- download the whitepaper (purchase may be required)