Operation Catnip relies upon the time and talents of 70 – 110 generous volunteers for each Spay Day clinic. The Volunteer Coordinator manages staffing for monthly spay-neuter clinics, office assistance, trap depot management and special events. Additionally, the Volunteer Coordinator is responsible for recruitment, recognition, retention, training, feedback and documentation of all volunteers.
The Veterinary Practice Act limits some tasks to veterinarians, technicians or veterinary students, and UF requires rabies immunization for any assignments that may involve contact with cats. Volunteers must be 16 to volunteer at the clinics held at UF. The minimum age to volunteer as an office assistant is 14. There are many opportunities for cat lovers of all skill levels to contribute both during and between the monthly clinics.
Before the Clinic
Staffing the Clinic
The goals of the monthly clinics are to provide high-quality veterinary care for the cats and a rewarding experience for volunteers. The staffing schedule is arranged to provide adequate, but not excessive, volunteer coverage, with most shifts lasting approximately 5 hours. Volunteers in the first shift help set up the clinic before anesthesia starts, and volunteers in the second shift help pack supplies and clean up when surgery is finished. There is a one-hour overlap between the two shifts to facilitate a smooth transition of duties.
Orienting New Volunteers
The Volunteer Coordinator directs all new volunteers to view an orientation presentation online so they learn about the mission of Operation Catnip and about the critical role that volunteers play in its success. New volunteers must complete the University of Florida Record of Volunteer Service and the Operation Catnip Volunteer Application prior to performing any work. New clinic volunteers must purchase an Operation Catnip scrub top for use during the clinic.
Monitoring Pre-Clinic Staffing Levels
Staffing levels are monitored throughout the volunteer sign-up period. In the uncommon circumstance of a shortage of key volunteers, the Volunteer Coordinator and the Caregiver Coordinator will confer with the Medical Director regarding a reduction in the number of cat reservations to make available.
Assigning Clinic Stations
The Volunteer Coordinator assigns specific clinic stations according to the skill levels and preference of the volunteers while balancing the needs of the clinic. At least one experienced volunteer is assigned to each station as Captain, and each clinic station must be staffed with enough adequately trained volunteers to ensure the efficiency of the clinic and the safety of the volunteers and cats.
All assignments are recorded in the Station Assignment Log. New volunteers are started at less demanding stations, noting their ability and willingness to learn and work under stress. Entry-level assignments include transporter, spay boards, recovery, instruments, and recorder.
Training for Clinic Assignments
Volunteers are directed the website to review the published protocols for each station and position, and to complete a quiz for any new station assignments they have before arriving at the clinic. The station captain trains and supervises new volunteers.
Preparing Station Assignment Log and Name Tags
Before each clinic, the Volunteer Coordinator prints the final clinic Station Assignment Log. Pre-printed name tags are prepared for each volunteer; green for those who have a current rabies immunization, and red for non-vaccinated volunteers. Name tags are sorted into bins; one for each veterinary student class (Freshman through Senior), one for vaccinated lay volunteers, one for non-vaccinated lay volunteers, and one for DVMs. The Station Assignment Log is sent to the Clinic Supervisor the Friday before each clinic.
During the Clinic
Checking In Volunteers
The Volunteer Coordinator sets up the check-in table with 1) the final Station Assignment Log, 2) the pre-printed volunteer nametags, and 3) the Volunteer Sign In Form & Release Waiver. All volunteers must check in at Volunteer Check-In. All forms and releases are collected, including volunteer applications, UF volunteer forms, proof of rabies vaccination/titer, and current contact information. The volunteer signs in before any volunteer activities commence.
Verifying Station Assignments and Volunteer Attendance
Before the clinic begins, roll is taken at each clinic station, and station assignments are verified. The Volunteer Coordinator confirms that all volunteers have signed the appropriate waiver and are wearing appropriate attire, an Operation Catnip scrub tops, their pre-printed name tags, and gloves.
Overseeing Final Station Preparations
The volunteers at each station are directed to review the instructions included in each station’s Supply Kit, and encouraged to ask questions, if anything needs further explanation. New volunteers are given a brief tour of the facilities (restrooms, water fountains, etc.), escorted to their stations, and introduced to the station captain.
Managing Late or Absent Volunteers
If a volunteer is more than 30 minutes late, the Volunteer Coordinator contacts them and reminds them of their commitment to the clinic and the importance of their role. The outcome of these phone calls are noted on the Station Assignment Log.
Monitoring Station Assignments
Throughout the course of the clinic, the Volunteer Coordinator monitors stations and staffing levels, making adjustments as needed, and taking note if any volunteers appear to need additional training. Volunteers proving themselves to be reliable, hard working, and trainable can be reassigned to more demanding areas as needed during the clinic.
- Volunteers are reassigned as needed to ease shortages or backups, and to improve the flow of the cats through the clinic. It may be necessary to move experienced personnel from their preferred station to meet these requirements.
- Volunteers are introduced to their new jobs and the staff at their new stations to facilitate the transition and establish the importance of their role.
When volunteers complete their shift, they check back with the Volunteer Coordinator for any additional instructions, such as assisting with cleaning up after the clinic. They then sign out and return their name tags. If necessary, an active volunteer is assigned to replace them, and the station assignment log is updated.
Managing Volunteer Performance
Sometimes volunteers leave their stations to observe others, leaving their station understaffed. If this becomes problematic, or if a clinic volunteer is otherwise unable to perform the task assigned to them, the Volunteer Coordinator counsels them and if necessary removes them from the floor for the safety of the cats and other volunteers.
Volunteers who are not a good fit for the clinic stations are encouraged to explore other ways they can help out. All volunteers are thanked for their contribution, and exceptional performance is acknowledged right away. The Volunteer Coordinator regularly recognizes volunteer contributions on the Operation Catnip Facebook page.
Overseeing Closing and Clean-Up
When all of the volunteers have checked in, the Volunteer Coordinator inventories the remaining supplies and repacks the Volunteer Check-in Station supply kit. The kit, station instructions, and any remaining items are returned to storage. The area is cleaned, all trash is disposed of, and the floors are swept or vacuumed, and mopped.
Managing Volunteer Records
At the conclusion of the clinic, the Volunteer Coordinator collects volunteer applications, proof of rabies vaccination/titer, and current contact information. Time and attendance are tracked for student records, for Continuing Education units, and for risk management and injury control.
After the Clinic
The Volunteer Coordinator collects all volunteer documents and submits them to the data entry coordinator. A thank you message with images and clinical highlights is sent to all volunteers who contributed before, during or after each clinic.