The following FAQ was initially created for volunteers to the Hospitals in Western Washington, but many suggestions could be applied to any Hospital 12 step call.
What do I do when I receive a twelve step call?
Respond right away if you are available to arrive to the hospital by evening same day. Indicate the time you will arrive. We ask that volunteers taking the call will arrange to find their own buddy to join them. If you have trouble finding a buddy, be sure to let the dispatcher know right away that you need help.
How soon do I need to be at the hospital?
Sometimes patients are discharged within hours of the call from the hospital, this is especially true for ER patients. We strive that A.A. volunteers get to the hospital as soon as possible (within a 2-4 hours max). Be sure to let the dispatcher know if you cannot arrive within a couple hours.
Can I go alone?
It’s recommended that we go in pairs and volunteers should always be the same sex as the patient. Bring a fellow home group member, a friend, your sponsor, etc…
What do I do when I arrive to the hospital?
Check in at the nurse’s station of the floor/wing/department that the patient is located. A.A. members do not need to provide their names or sign anything. Just say something like, “we are from A.A. and here to visit John Smith, is it ok that we go in now?” Volunteers do not need to inform the nurse of their departure.
What do I talk to the patient about?
If you are not sure what to do or say on a 12th step call, read chapter 7 “Working with Others” in the A.A. big book, particularly pages 91-95. Remember, A.A. cannot instill the initial motivation for others to stop drinking. Although the patient has expressed a desire for the visit, it’s not always clear how willing the patient really is. Try not to judge their willingness. We plant seeds with our experience, strength, and hope. We have patients later coming into A.A. after these visits although they seemed uninterested during the 12 step visit.
If the patient shows an interest, what do I do?
The big book says, “Tell him that if he wants to get well you will do anything to help” (page 95). For most volunteers, this means that we will exchange contact information with the patient and arrange to take them to a meeting when they get out of the hospital. Of course we don’t push this if the patient is not interested. If the patient lives out of the area, be sure to pass their information on to the dispatcher so that they can be connected to their local A.A. members.
I don’t feel comfortable with nurses coming in and out of the room.
Volunteers can request some privacy during the visit so that care takers are not in and out during the visit. Most staff are understanding of this. Be aware that if the patient is on suicide watch you cannot have the door closed.
How long will the visit take?
Usually about 45 minutes.
What if the patient says they never requested the visit?
Patients must sign a release of information document (ROI) agreeing that the Hospital may contact A.A. with the patients name and hospital room number. By law, the hospital cannot contact A.A. with this information without the patients signature on the ROI form. If the patient “forgot” or changed their mind about talking to someone from A.A. by the time you arrive, politely leave.
What do I do after the visit is over?
Just leave, you do not need to inform the hospital staff that the visit is over. If the patient has expressed to you that they want to go to treatment, you can inform the social worker on staff before you leave.