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Helping Volunteers through Stressful Situations

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One area of volunteer program management that rarely receives attention is how to effectively support volunteers through difficult times. Clearly some volunteers, such as those working in a hospice, already have training to deal with the inevitable consequences of losing a client. This Keyboard Roundtable focuses on the range of support issues that arise as a part of any program and not just those dealing directly with trauma in the client group. Examples would include a volunteer who loses a spouse or child, a volunteer who learns that s/he or a family member has a terminal illness, or a volunteer dealing with declining health issues.

Furthermore, the issues do not have to concern death and dying (or even be negative) in order to be stressful. Consider a volunteer about to have a baby, a volunteer worried about a wayward teenage child, or the volunteer who is waiting for the results of medical tests, even if the news actually turns out to be good.

This Keyboard Roundtable discusses the volunteer program manager's responsibilities to support volunteers through these periods, ways we can effectively do that and what might be the long term payoffs for the program and the volunteer if we do it well.