Gilchrist volunteers come from all walks of life, have different spiritual beliefs and experiences, and range in age from 18 to 92. Many of them have lost loved ones who were cared for by Gilchrist. Some are students who will eventually provide care to individuals nearing the end of their life. Others are drawn to hospice as they consider their own mortality. Despite their differences, every Gilchrist volunteer possesses a few key qualities.
- A genuine desire to bring comfort and peace to patients. Gilchrist volunteers all want to help provide the best possible end-of-life experience.
- A spirit of generosity and compassion. The work we do is profound and is not something that can be checked off a list, or entered into mindlessly. They must approach each assignment with an open heart and a sincere desire to serve.
- Be an excellent communicator. They need to know when to talk and when to listen. They also must be comfortable with sitting in silence and always letting the patient direct the visit.
- A keen understanding of their own personal limits. For instance, it might not be sustainable for a working parent to take on an assignment with a family who needs respite care twice a week. Our volunteers need to know what their emotional limits are, too. Someone who lost a child on service may not be able to volunteer with someone who is a similar age.
- Flexibility. Things happen very quickly in hospice, and there are no crystal balls telling us when things will happen. Our volunteers need to “go with the flow” when things don’t go exactly as they thought they would.
- An ability to check their agenda at the door. We cannot truly connect with another person if we bring our own values and judgments into the relationship. We often feel strongly about our beliefs, so being self-aware enough to not impose them onto others is critical.
- A willingness to let others lead. The best way our volunteers can support our families is to allow the patient to lead every visit so that they maintain their sense of dignity and comfort, which is, after all, the gift we hope to give each person we serve.