FAQs for Volunteers


FAQs for Volunteers


How many hours are volunteers required to serve per week?

Volunteers work a minimum of one (1) three hour shift per week.* This shift will repeat every week. Volunteers are expected to be reliable in attending their shifts as they are an integral part of enhancing the patient and caregiver experience at MSK. 

*Caring Canine volunteers and musician volunteers may work for 1 – 2 hour shifts weekly given the nature of their assignment. 

What time are most volunteer shifts?

We welcome participants at any hour, but the greatest need is for volunteers with time from Monday through Friday between the hours of and

Volunteer Commitment: How long do volunteers serve at MSK?

  • Volunteers are expected to commit to a minimum of six months when volunteering. Adults generally stay for least one year of service, and most work with us for about two years — although some end up contributing for decades. 
  • Please note, we do not offer short-term volunteer opportunities or shadowing of medical professionals. 

Can students volunteer?

Yes. Students may volunteer for a semester or a summer. Students must be at least 16 years old to volunteer. For Pediatrics and Caring Canine volunteer positions, students must be at least 17 and 18 respectively. 

What kind of support do you offer for volunteers?

Volunteering in the oncology environment can be emotionally demanding, especially when working with patients who may be coping with life-threatening health problems. We offer training and ongoing support groups for our volunteers. These sessions give people a chance to talk about their experiences in the hospital and explore best practices when communicating with different types of situations and interactions.

What do I have to do before I begin volunteering?

Prior to starting, all volunteers attend an orientation workshop and also submit health records to make sure they don’t inadvertently put patients at risk. In fact, New York State law requires volunteers to fulfill certain medical requirements such as testing for German measles, measles, mumps, chicken pox, and a two-step PPD (tuberculosis) test.

Do I need to take any classes or go through training before I volunteer?

The Department of Volunteer Resources provides onboarding for new volunteers to learn about MSK and volunteering expectations. Volunteers also electronically complete a Required Regulatory Training program that covers patient privacy, safety, infection control, hospital policies, and conduct. Any additional assignment-specific training is provided by site supervisors in their assignment. Active volunteers receive a photo ID badge, a uniform, and instructions on how to use our computerized system for tracking hours of activity. 

Can I choose what type of work I want to do or what department or type of patient I want to work with?

On your application form, you can tell us about why you’re interesting in volunteering with us and what type of assignment you’re looking for. The role you’re assigned to will largely depend on the needs of our staff members and departments, as well your personal experience and volunteering history.  

Do I have to know someone with cancer or be a current or former patient of MSK in order to volunteer?

No. You don’t need to have any personal history of cancer or experience with or as a patient in order to volunteer.