At the last DOVIA (Directors of volunteers in agencies) meeting, one of the volunteer managers, Judy, from another agency grabbed me and whispered, “I’ve got to tell you about Trina!”
Trina is a volunteer who was let go by our hospice six months ago. She had volunteered with us for six years. Time and time again, we counseled Trina for overstepping boundaries. Time and time again, she would laugh and say, “You caught me!” or “oh, it was just a little misstep.” We would have let her go a long time ago, but she has a good heart and well, sigh, you know. It finally got too much when she started insulting nursing home staff. It was time.
She left unhappily and went to another agency. There, she made it clear that our hospice was unfair to her and we were all wrong and incompetent. Judy, the volunteer manager at this new agency was happy to have someone with Trina’s extensive experience. Judy would make comments to me at the DOVIA meetings about how well Trina was doing. I just kept my mouth shut.
This last time however, Judy took me aside and just shook her head. It seems Trina had been volunteering with one of their clients. Everything seemed wonderful. Trina reported on time, kept all her appointments and was enthused. However, one day Trina took it upon herself to accompany the client to a doctor’s appointment, where she identified herself as a family friend and not as a volunteer. She proceeded to insert herself into the medical care of this client. It appears that Trina did not agree with some of the decisions her client’s family had made. A big brouhaha ensued and Trina was promptly removed. Judy was devastated and the agency had a PR nightmare on their hands. “I never saw that coming,” Judy lamented.
How did I feel about that conversation? Ah, sweet vindication for me, right? If I’m truly honest, yes, for a moment, but then it hit me. I did not warn this other agency. Judy also did not ask, nor accept that I might have insight on her potential volunteer. She chose to believe Trina’s claims that my agency was incompetent and I chose to let her find out that Trina was a risky volunteer. In looking back, we both had chips on our shoulders, I think.
I fear Trina will go on down the road and potentially harm another agency. Will she claim her experience at our hospice and at Judy’s agency? I don’t honestly know, but if she does, I hope that new agency will call for a reference. This time, I will make certain I give them one.
Kristen McHenry said:
Why no joy? Because you care about your profession. Because you aren’t petty and vengeful. Because you’re concerned about the well-being of the vulnerable client, even if that client isn’t part of your organization. I have experienced some similar issues in my work, so you’re not alone. I will say that if I have a bad experience with a volunteer, or a potential volunteer, I immediately let my colleagues at my other branch hospitals know, and they extend the same courtesy to me. I think that sometimes there can be a bit of weird ego-based competition that goes on: “Oh, that volunteer didn’t do well at *your* agency, but they will thrive under my guidance!” Go easy on yourself. You were in a tough situation and I imagine you felt that you were doing the right thing at the time. This is a profession rife with complications. Would it really have prevented harm if you had told Judy what you thought of Trina? Probably not. It may have appeared gossipy, petty, or even unethical. This was a tough situation.
Thanks as always for a great, insightful blog. Myself and my colleagues read your new posts avidly!
Always feels good when we’re not alone. I do agree there seems to be a very weird competition vibe with all of us. It’s kinda like we’re lion tamers and when we get a lion that ate his last tamer, we figure, “hey, must be the tamer, not the lion!” Thanks again, your comments are spot-on!