“Volunteering in a hospital provides a social connection that contributes to a healing environment for patients and visitors,” said Mike Rawlings, Intermountain Health.

A recent advisory from the U.S. Surgeon General explains how loneliness can affect physical health, and that social connection and a feeling of community can have healing effects on some medical conditions. Some of the studies cited in the advisory:

A 2017 study shows lacking social connection is as dangerous to your health as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. And social isolation, poor social support, are associated with a 29% increase in the risk of heart disease and a 32% increase in the risk of stroke.

On the flip side, the report cites studies that show social connection may lower the risk of health conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes, or that social connection may lead to better management of those conditions.

“Volunteering in a hospital or with patients, provides a social connection that contributes to a healing environment for patients and visitors,” said Mike Rawlings, director of volunteer services at Intermountain Health.

“Volunteers often comment on how providing service benefits them as much as it does the patient,” he added.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness cites research that shows people who volunteer experience many mental health benefits such as 1) reduced stress; 2) increased happiness; 3) improved confidence; and 4) finding purpose.

Benefits of becoming an Intermountain Health volunteer:

  • Give back to the community
  • Build friendships and connect with staff, guests and volunteers
  • 20% discount to Intermountain hospital gift shops
  • Meal voucher for hospital volunteers
  • Annual caregiver gift

There are 2,300 volunteers at Intermountain Health who help at 22 hospital locations. Intermountain Health also has volunteers who go to patient’s homes for those patients who are receiving hospice and end-of-life care.

Volunteer Opportunities (These vary based on the needs of each hospital).

  1. Gift shop support
  2. Information Desk / Wayfinding
  3. Department support
  4. Deliveries to patients
  5. Perform music for patients and visitors
  6. Pet therapy (certification required)
  7. Visit patients
  8. Neonatal ICU cuddler – must complete volunteer hours in other areas first.
  9. Community garden
  10. No One Dies Alone program
  11. Hospice support in the home

Requirements to volunteer

  • Most volunteer opportunities are for 18 years of age and older
  • Some volunteer opportunities for junior volunteers (ages 14-17)
  • Commit to one shift (3-4 hours) per week for six months
  • Pass a background check and drug screening
  • Complete training and education requirements
  • Provide proof of required immunizations

How to apply to be a volunteer

Interested individuals can visit the volunteer page on intermountainhealth.org to find out what opportunities are available at an Intermountain location near them, or fill out an application here. People who want to volunteer can also check with hospitals in their area, or visit the United Way website for opportunities in their area or call 211.

About Intermountain Health

Headquartered in Utah with locations in seven states and additional operations across the western U.S., www.intermountainhealth.org is a nonprofit system of 33 hospitals, 385 clinics, medical groups with some 3,900 employed physicians and advanced care providers, a health plans division called SelectHealth with more than one million members, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For more information or updates, see https://intermountainhealthcare.org/news.