Case Study

Pam Ferguson
Pam Ferguson, Shepherd's Hope Neighborhood Health Center
Location: Little Rock, RI
Number of Volunteers: 125
Jobs Scheduled: Medical volunteers, nurses, doctors, dentists, front office volunteers, interpreters, phlebotomist.
Web Site: Shepherd's Hope Neighborhood Health Center
Tracy: How was scheduling done prior to VSP?
Pam: We used an Excel spreadsheet. I was the person who had the privilege of emailing everybody every time there was a change trying to coordinate the work.
Tracy: Why did you seek out a scheduling program?
Pam: As a time saver. I wanted an automated way to do the scheduling and then automate emails. That was the most important. Prior to VSP, it took me 30 hours a week to schedule and handle all of the emails going back and forth. It was quite time intensive.
Tracy: How did scheduling change once you started using VSP?
Pam: I would say it knocked my time needed for scheduling from 30 hours a week down to a maximum of five hours a week because the way it generates emails automatically, allows the volunteers to request their own subs and sends out emails for communication if needed. It accepts changes without me having to get involved. I guess I could email, but they're actually doing the work themselves behind the scene. That's been great!
Tracy: What would you say are the three greatest benefits of using VSP?
Pam: Definitely time. Second, the volunteers appreciate being able to see people that they know are working on the schedule and send out for their own [sub] replacements; they really like that. I think the third [benefit] is being able to have each of the [volunteers] tailor their reminder notices. Some of my doctors, Lord love them, they just need a week or two [notice] and then they also need another reminder the day before. It works out perfectly.
Tracy: How much time did it take to set up VSP?
Pam: It was negligible really because I imported my data from Excel. I would say probably we had about 125 volunteers and maybe it took three hours max to get it all in and situated the way I wanted it.
Tracy: How were substitutes found prior to VSP?
Pam: Someone would call me and tell me they were going to be out. I would then get online, pull up as many email addresses out of my Outlook because I actually used an excel spreadsheet and I would contact everybody and then wait to get email replies back and pray that they would come in. Now, with VSP generating the emails for me, I don't have to do that. It's wonderful.
Tracy: How do you use the VSP Emailer? What has your volunteers' reaction been?
Pam: Typically I send emails by job category. I email them if we have a major need and nobody is stepping up to the plate. We share life-changing events that have happened at the clinic with patients because that inspires the volunteers to continue to keep plugging in. It has given the volunteers more communication from administration.
Tracy: How has the Web Terminal affected the way you handle scheduling?
Pam: Volunteers like the ease and sensibility of using the Web Terminal to be able to manage their availability. That's part of that 25 hours that it freed me up every week because now I don't have to call people and find out the dates that somebody can't work or the different shift that they want to work. The Web Terminal has been very well thought through.
Tracy: How has the ability to find subs online affected attendance and volunteers’ willingness to commit to serving?
Pam: The old standbys said, 'Oh, well, this will never work. You won't get people to respond.' And the response has been absolutely wonderful. You know giving people the power to be able to interface with the computer when they need to change their schedule instead of calling someone I think really works well. First of all, they're not as threatened by telling the computer that they can't work that day.
[VSP also] helps with the accountability. And I think that has probably created a little better attendance whereas before it was easier for them to call me and say, "Hey, I can't be there," and know that I would handle it.
Tracy: How – if at all – has VSP helped in making volunteering easier at Shepherd’s Hope Neighborhood Health Center?
Pam: I think it's makes it easier because number one they know they can go to it at any time day or night, pull up the schedules, see who is working and [sign up] when they can fill in, so I think it's been a big benefit.
Tracy: Why is increasing the number of volunteers and the number of volunteer hours important for your organization?
Pam: It important because there is a never ending line of patients who need to be seen who have no insurance and we can only see as many [people] as we have volunteers.
Tracy: How many shifts do you schedule per week?
Pam: We are [open] two nights a week and each night is a three hour shift. Typically 36 to 40 volunteers [are scheduled] per week.
Tracy: What tips would you give to new users just setting up VSP?
Pam: I would say just make sure and set up your import. If you had it in an Excel spreadsheet like I did, make sure and set it up in such a way that it will import easily and into the correct fields that you want it to. Really it's very self-explanatory, so I don't know that there's any major tips to share with anyone.
Tracy: What type of scheduling model do you use to schedule your volunteers?
Pam: Every quarter I complete the schedule based on the desires of the staff and the volunteers. Half the volunteers are consistent and half change. If there are any holes in the schedule that need to be filled, we do allow them to self sign up for any of the jobs they're qualified for.
Tracy: How has VSP changed being a volunteer at your health center?
Pam: It has given the volunteers more communication from administration. It's easy now to generate what I call the State of the Union at Shepherd's Hope, which lets [volunteers] know how many patients we've seen, how many people may have come to know the Lord, any wonderful stories that have come from the different nights, etc. And they love hearing that. They love being a part of it. I even send that to the inactive volunteers and it inspires a lot of them to become active again because then they think 'Oh, man, I miss that.'
Tracy: What are the benefits of being a volunteer being it on the admin staff or as a medical professional?
Pam: Volunteers know they're there more than just to give health care or to be a receptionist. They know they're there to love people and once they come into it and they feel that warmness, it inspires them, energizes them.