NP Student Megan Bonis had a great suggestion – an FAQ for Virtual Volunteers would go a long way. She didn’t stop there, she put together helpful tips for all volunteers.


Best Practice Response

Wearing a mask concerns:

What should I say when a shelter guest refuses to wear a mask?
Respond to emotion compassionately – reinforce shelter policy and Dane County emergency order effective 7-13-2020 and the role masks play in keeping others (friends/staff at shelter) safe.  Guests are not admitted to the shelter without a mask.
How many times can you reuse a N95 mask?  
NIOSH is the branch of the CDC that creates guidance for PPE. N95 masks can be reused if the front of the mask is not touched. The number of times the mask can be reused is typically listed by the mask vendor. When this information is not available, 5 uses per device is listed by the CDC. We will continue to post updates as changes occur. 

When symptoms present:

What should I do when a shelter staff member or in-person volunteer presents with COVID-19 symptom/s?
If a shelter staff member, refer them to their supervisor to have them go home.   If a volunteer, indicate the need for them to go home and notify the shelter supervisor.If a volunteer, who is also a shelter guest, follow the protocol for hotel or emergency department outcome per the detailed screening tool and notify the shelter supervisor.
What should I say when a shelter guest who demonstrates the need for a detailed screening doesn’t want to do it?
Reassure the guest that they will not lose their place at the shelter (meal/bed) and that this is the way to keep them and others safe.  Ultimately, the shelter guest cannot enter shelter unless the detailed screening is completed and the shelter outcome is indicated.
What should I do when I need to conduct a detailed screening at an inconvenient time (during a rush of guests, when I’m the only Virtual Volunteer, etc.)?
If possible, have the guest be seated (outside and Porchlight or in the hallway at TSA), to wait for a short time until you are able to screen them later (within a few minutes).  If this is not possible, go ahead with detailed screening and go back to initial screenings afterward.

Hotel or Emergency Department Outcome concerns:

What should I say to a shelter guest who receives a hotel referral and doesn’t want to go to the hotel?
Respect their choice, but also reinforce the hotel as the safer option for them and others. Reinforce that they will have a meal and a place to sleep.  For the safety of others, guests who receive a hotel referral will not be allowed in the shelter that night.
What happens to a shelter guest’s belongings if they are referred to the hotel or emergency department?
Shelter guests need to take their belongings with them, as the shelter does not have adequate storage available for these items.
What happens at the hotel after the shelter guest arrives?
The guest checks in as a typical hotel patron and tells the hotel staff the room number they have been given for the night (this information is provided to the shelter before the guest leaves).  The guest will sign an agreement which defines hotel expectations. Public Health nurses will contact the guest after arrival for assessment.
How do I coach the in-person volunteer for an emergency department referral?
Walk through the process of transport and then coach on type of report to give to the emergency department when sending a guest.

Shift related concerns:

How long do I need to stay on for my shift? 
Virtual Volunteers are expected to remain online for the entire shift time. We have learned that some of the sickest shelter guests arrive at the end of the shift time.
How many shifts am I required to cover/volunteer?  
We strongly encourage Virtual Volunteers to cover at least 3-4 shifts per month. This provides a full experience of the program.  Your Virtual Volunteer account may be deactivated if volunteer hours are limited.
What is the ‘Waitlist’ option?  
The Waitlist option is used when all shifts for a particular day are filled.  You can add yourself to the waitlist (specific location and shift) and be “on-call” in the event a shift becomes available at the last minute and is extremely helpful for ensuring all shifts are covered.You will receive automated emails from the volunteer system indicating:You have been added to the waitlist for your chosen shelter.You have removed yourself from a waitlist.The shelter you indicated needs you to work the shift you indicated on the waitlist.An open shift has been filled by another waitlist volunteer.

Technology concerns:

What happens when the tablets won’t connect?
If you are unable to connect with Nurse Disrupted via the tablets for check in COVID screens please follow below procedures:Call Nurse Disrupted Technical Support Line at 608-807-6327.IF the internet is down and the tablets are unable to connect, complete screen via phone with Nurse Disrupted. They will call in and place the phone on speaker so they may communicate with the guests.At TSA, Phone #1 (primary one in hallway who asks initial screening questions) Shelter cell phone 608-513-2392At TSA, Phone #2 (In women’s shelter office for further screening) Women’s shelter phone 608-250-2226The Porchlight number is 608-243-0232 
Need to know more about ZOOM?  
Go to You do not have to create and account, but those accounts arefree if you would like to open and account.Complete Zoom’s training for Join a Meeting, Meeting Controls, Breakout Roomsbonus All About ZoomYou do not have to create an account, but they are free if you would like to.