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National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization volunteers

How to Be a Hospice Hero

By Sue Canuteson  |  Become a hospice volunteer — and help patients and families have the best end-of-life experience possible  | 


During one of their weekly visits, Randy told Jim, “All I want is to go to the Naval Aviation Museum.”

Randy is an Army veteran and hospice patient. Jim is a Navy veteran and hospice volunteer. By the following month, Jim had arranged a two-hour tour of the museum, given by a vice admiral, especially for Randy. As Randy later expressed in a thank-you note, he cherished that day.

This is but one example of the difference hospice volunteers make in the lives of patients and their families — at a time when every moment counts.

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), more than 400,000 volunteers dedicate time to hospice programs in their communities. Some are veterans like Jim who want to provide companionship and support to fellow veterans. Others are members of a specific faith or ethnic group who wish to help those with similar beliefs or traditions. Still others are eager to make a difference in someone’s life.

When matching volunteers to recipients, hospice organizations strive to meet the patient’s and family’s preferences while also respecting the wishes of the volunteers.

Volunteers can support hospice in many different ways, including:

  • Providing companionship to patients
  • Running errands or doing light housekeeping for the patient and family
  • Assisting hospice with fundraising or administrative tasks, such as filing, data entry, or working in a hospice thrift shop
  • Helping with community outreach 

While some people think of “hospice” as a single organization, hospice programs are run independently. So, if you’re interested in becoming a hospice volunteer, learn about the hospices in your community. Most have websites, so a quick Internet search will provide the basic information you need, or check NHPCO’s Find a Provider directory.

You will likely be asked to complete a brief application and interview with a volunteer manager. He or she will want to learn more about you, your interests and skills.

Hospices also hold mandatory, comprehensive training to prepare volunteers for the specific work they’ll be doing. While the content of training varies, it typically covers the philosophy of hospice care, an overview of the hospice’s services, guidance on professional boundaries, and basic information about grief and loss.

For more information, visit the NHPCO’s Caring Connections, where you can download a brochure about hospice volunteering.

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National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization NHPCOSue Canuteson was a hospice volunteer before joining the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, where she serves as editor of its membership publication.


Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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