Volunteer Caregiver FAQs

Volunteer Caregiver Program

What is the Volunteer Caregiver commitment?

Our Volunteer Caregivers commit to one year of service. This includes one weekly shift of five hours (morning, afternoon, or evening), one day per week (weekdays and weekends). Shifts 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 6:45pm to 9:00pm. All volunteers are invited to twice-yearly meditation retreats with a teacher from one of many spiritual traditions. During their first six months of service, volunteers must also attend all additional training sessions, as listed on the training schedule.

What if I'm not a Zen Buddhist?

We welcome 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 hospice care. The volunteer contribution to the hospice 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 Volunteer Caregivers are welcome to find a place in our current community. Because changes are always happening in the care environments where we serve, you will be asked to participate in a workshop-style training to give you the latest information you need to serve effectively. To begin volunteering again, you will need to complete a Volunteer Caregiver application and have an interview with Alistair Shanks, Volunteer Programs Manager.

Are there other ways to volunteer besides as Volunteer Caregiver?

Yes, through our Special Skills Volunteer Program, individuals offer general services that provide invaluable support to Zen Hospice Project. Special Skills Program Volunteers have access to structured learning opportunities and gain insight into our unique model of end-of-life care.

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 neither the Volunteer Caregiver or Special Skills Volunteer program can be used to meet clinical hours requirements. 

How do I apply for the next Volunteer Caregiver training?

Simply complete  the application.  If you prefer,  you can request a hard copy of the application by contacting Zen Hospice Project at 415-913-7682 X104. The application invites you to take time to reflect on what hospice volunteering means to you. Heartfelt and considered responses are desired. 

When do I apply for the Volunteer Caregiver training?

We accept applications on an on-going basis and review them all approximately two months before the next scheduled training.  Early applications are recommended, as the number of participants in each training is limited. We consider applications in the order they are received. Applications received after the beginning of our review period will be held for the following training. 

Where does the Volunteer Caregiver training take place?

The training usually occurs at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco. Please check the training schedule for more details.

How much does the Volunteer Caregiver training cost?

There is a $350 fee, which covers a portion of the costs for our comprehensive training. Fees are payable after acceptance. Payment plans can be arranged.

What happens after I apply?

Your application will be reviewed by our Director of Volunteer Services. For selected applicants we then schedule in-person interviews in advance of the next training. Acceptance into the program is based on your application and interview. An important aspect of a candidate’s application is the reasonability of their keeping the required commitment. Upon review of your application you will be contacted 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 your application will be forwarded to a future training session.
  • To indicate that your application is being declined.

Special Skills Volunteer Program

How do I become a Special Skills Volunteer?

Submit an application, cover letter, and resume to volunteering@zenhospice.org. Be sure to indicate which type of work interests you most.

Where do Special Skills volunteers work?

Currently all  Special Skills volunteers serve at Laguna Honda Hospital and Zen Hospice Prioject's office in San Francisco.

What skills are needed?

At our administrative office, we need help with data entry, fundraising mailings, filing, editing, IT support, and the like.
Even if you do not feel you have a particular skill to offer, please contact us;  it is quite likely we can assign you to a weekly project. Your intention and availability to serve is the primary prerequisite.

What is the Special Skills Volunteer commitment?

We ask for a commitment of 2-4 hours per week for a minimum of 3-6 months.  Actual scheduling varies by project.

Is there any training required?

Prior to volunteering with us, you will need to participate in an orientation specific to the type of service you will be offering. 

Will I need any health screening or clearance from my physician?


Is the Special Skills Volunteer Program a way for me to become a Volunteer Caregiver?

It is not.  If you serve with us as a Special Skills Volunteer, you will still be required to apply to the Caregiver Volunteer program as anyone else would. However Special Skills service is a very good introduction to our community.