Volunteer Caregiving Program FAQs

What is the Volunteer Caregiver commitment?

Our Volunteer Caregivers commit to one year of service. This commitment includes one weekly shift of five hours (morning, afternoon, or evening), one day per week (weekdays and weekends). Shift assignments are the same week-to-week. In addition, Volunteer Caregivers commit to participating in monthly Community Meetings held on the first Tuesday of each month from 6:45 pm to 9:00 pm. We invite all volunteers to twice-yearly meditation retreats with a teacher from one of many spiritual traditions. During the first six months of service, volunteers must also attend all additional training sessions.

What if I’m not a Zen Buddhist?

We welcome people from all spiritual traditions and wish to encourage a pluralistic community. As Buddhist practice forms the basis of our approach, we nurture a community where contemplative practice is a core value.

Do I need to have medical experience to be a Volunteer Caregiver?

No. Volunteers work with a team of skilled professionals who provide the specific medical and clinical services of palliative care. The volunteer contribution to the palliative caregiving community is not medical but rather psychosocial, providing compassionate companionship, and a listening heart.

I volunteered in the past and want to come back. How can I start up again?

Former Zen Caregiving Project Volunteers are welcome to find a place in our current community. As change is frequent in the care environments we serve, we provide a workshop-style training with the latest information needed to serve effectively. Your participation is essential. To begin volunteering again, you will need to complete a Volunteer Caregiving Program application and interview with Alistair Shanks, Volunteer Programs Manager.

Are there other ways to volunteer besides a Volunteer Caregiver? 

Yes, through our partnership with the Bloom Project. Participation requires a short training, and weekly volunteering on Mondays, from 10 am – noon, at Laguna Honda Hospital. If you are interested in applying to be a Bloom Project volunteer, please email alistair@zencaregiving.org.

Can I be a Volunteer Caregiver to fulfill a degree program’s clinical hours requirement?

No. We welcome persons currently enrolled in educational programs; however, the Volunteer Caregiving Program cannot be used to meet clinical hours requirements.

How do I apply for the next Volunteer Caregiving training?

We invite you to apply through a form to take time to reflect on what volunteering in a palliative care setting means to you. Please share only your heartfelt and considered responses. A link to the application form will be posted on the website from mid-December to the end of February during our open enrollment period.

When do I apply for the Volunteer Caregiving training?

We accept applications only during our Open Enrollment period, which runs from mid-December to the end of February. During that time, we will post a link to our online application on this page. We recommend early applications, as the number of participants in each training is limited. We consider applications in the order they are received. Applications received after our review period will be held for the following training.

Where does the Volunteer Caregiving training take place?

The training usually occurs at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco.

How much does the Volunteer Caregiving training cost?

There is a tiered fee structure, which covers a portion of the costs for our comprehensive training. The fee tiers are $250, $300, and $350; self-determined according to the ability to pay. Fees are payable after acceptance, and payment plans can be arranged. We turn no one away for lack of funds.

What happens after I apply?

Our Volunteer Program Manager will review your application. For selected applicants, we then schedule in-person interviews in advance of the next training. We base acceptance into the program on your application and interview. An important aspect of a candidate’s application is the reasonability of their ability to keep the required commitment. Upon review of your application, we will contact you for one of the following reasons:

  • To schedule an interview to determine if you will be joining the next training.
  • To indicate that the training cohort is already full and that we will forward your application to a future training session.
  • To indicate that we have decline your application.

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