Patient/Family Volunteers

Patient/Family Volunteers

Service Description


Provide practical assistance, social and emotional support for families of oncology patients who are receiving medical care at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA). Enable family members to cope with the challenges of caring for a critically ill person. Typically, volunteers assist families who are from outside of western Washington. We are not recruiting for this role at this time. Training for this role is offered only once a year and will be scheduled for April/ May 2009.


  1. When possible, meet new patients and their families at the airport. Provide rides to/from the airport for family members who donate marrow/stem cells or serve as primary caregivers.
  2. Assist families with getting to know Seattle by providing tours of the city and transportation for household shopping. Offer transportation for grocery shopping on a weekly basis.
  3. Offer companionship and diversion by visiting and telephoning families at least once a week. Invite family members on recreational outings in the Seattle area. Organize play activities for children so parents may take breaks.
  4. Provide empathy and emotional support by being an attentive listener. Empower individuals to contact the appropriate medical, social work and pastoral care staff when they have questions or express concerns.
  5. Strive to remain compassionate, non-judgmental, flexible and impartial when assisting people that have lifestyles, spiritual beliefs, and interests that are different from your own.
  6. Respect the privacy of patients and family members, and abide by the Volunteer Services Program’s confidentiality policies.


The Manager of Volunteer Services is responsible for coordinating volunteers who assist patients' families. During a patient/family assignment, volunteers are asked to provide an update to the Manager of Volunteer Services at the beginning of each month.


New volunteers must be able to commit a minimum of one year to the Volunteer Services Program. Volunteers assist an average of two families per year. Families are typically in Seattle for two to four months. During a patient/family assignment, your time commitment will vary each week, depending on the family’s support needs and your schedule. We encourage volunteers to contact their assigned family twice a week. It is the volunteer’s responsibility to initiate regular contact with a family, since people are often hesitant to ask for practical assistance and social support.


Patients are extremely vulnerable to potentially life-threatening infections because their immune systems are suppressed from chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Because of this, all volunteers must abide by universal precaution and infectious disease guidelines in order to protect themselves and patients. These guidelines are listed in the Volunteer Manual.


  • Ability to provide empathy and compassion.
  • Ability to distinguish one's own needs from those of patients and family members.
  • Respect of diverse lifestyles, cultures, religions and values.
  • Ability to be flexible and respond to changing needs of patients and family members.
  • Ability to maintain emotional boundaries and lead a balanced life.
  • Ability to work as part of a team with other volunteers and staff.
  • Have not experienced a major life transition within the past two years, such as a serious illness, the death of a loved one, divorce or separation.

Patient/Family Volunteers must be at least 21 years of age; possess a valid driver's license and automobile insurance; have a good driving record; no criminal history or current substance abuse issues. Volunteer applicants are asked to complete the FHCRC/ SCCA disclosure forms and authorize a criminal background check. Annual tuberculosis testing and documentation for Chickenpox (Varicella), Measles, Mumps and Rubella are required of all volunteers who have contact with patients. In addition, volunteers between the ages of 19 and 64 are required to receive a single dose of Tdap vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.


New Patient/Family Volunteers participate in six orientation sessions and an interview before they are assigned to a family. Volunteers are encouraged to attend in-service education programs for continuing education.


Personal growth from providing vital support to oncology patients and their families. Opportunities to support families from around the world and diverse cultures. Increased awareness of the medical and emotional aspects of cancer treatment, supportive communication and listening skills, and ways to provide practical assistance to critically ill people and their loved ones.