Nationwide survey on volunteers’ training in hospice and palliative care in Poland

Pawłowski, L. et al. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care. Published online: 29 July 2016


Background: Volunteers working in hospice and palliative care facilities in Poland undertake various activities which are performed in accordance with legal regulations and the individual policies of each hospice. The aim of this study was to explore the roles and training of volunteers working in hospice and palliative care settings.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey was carried out that investigated the services performed by volunteers and their preparation for work within residential hospices. Questionnaires were distributed to volunteers and hospice representatives, and the responses obtained underwent statistical analysis.

Participants: A total of 180 volunteers and 28 hospice representatives from 29 residential hospices participated in this survey.

Results: All hospices surveyed were supported by volunteers. 79% of volunteers worked alongside patients and performed the following services: accompanying patients (76%), feeding patients (61%), cleaning rooms (48%), dressing and bathing (42%) and organising leisure time (40%). Fewer volunteers were involved in activities outside of patient support—for example, charity work and fundraising (34%), cleaning hospice buildings (23%) as well as providing information and education (22%). According to volunteers, prior to undertaking their duties, 64% participated in theoretical training and 37% took part in a practical course. The majority attended courses relating to general knowledge of hospice and palliative care (64%) and volunteer rights and duties (55%).

Conclusions: Overall, proper training was an essential requirement needed to be fulfilled by volunteers, particularly when involved in direct patient support. Most volunteers were simultaneously involved in various areas of service; therefore, their training should be comprehensive.

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The use of reflective diaries in end of life training programmes: a study exploring the impact of self-reflection on the participants in a volunteer training programme

Germain, A. et al. BMC Palliative Care (2016) 15:28. Published online: 5 March 2016

Image source: C G

Background: A training programme was developed and delivered to a cohort of volunteers who were preparing for a unique role to provide companionship to dying patients in the acute hospital setting. This comprehensive programme aimed to provide an opportunity for participants to fully understand the nature and responsibilities of the role, whilst also allowing sufficient time to assess the qualities and competencies of participants for their ongoing volunteering role. Participants completed reflective diaries throughout the training course to record their ongoing thoughts and feelings. The purpose of this paper is to present a phenomenological analysis of these entries to understand participants’ experiences, perceptions and motivations.

Method: The wider study was structured into three phases. Phase 1 was the delivery of a 12 week, bespoke training programme; Phase 2 involved a 26 week pilot implementation of the Care of the Dying Volunteer Service and Phase 3 was the research evaluation of the training and implementation which would inform the further development of the training programme. Self-reflection is a common component of End of Life training programmes and volunteers in this study completed a reflective diary after participation in each of the training sessions. A thematic analysis was undertaken to explore and understand the participants’ experience, perceptions and motivations in relation to their participation in the training.

Results: All 19 volunteers completed the reflective diaries. From a potential 228 diary entries over the 12 week training programme, 178 diary entries were submitted (78 %). The following key themes were identified: Dying Alone and the importance of being present, Personal loss and the reconstruction of meaning, Self-Awareness and Personal growth, Self-preservation and Coping strategies and group unity/cohesion.

Conclusions: The participants in this study demonstrated that they were able to use the diaries as an appropriate medium for reflection. Their reflections were also instrumental in the ongoing revision and development of the training programme. Analysis of their entries illustrated that the diaries could provide the opportunity for a reappraisal of their world view and personal philosophy around death and dying. Further research is undoubtedly required, however this paper suggests that self-reflection in this way, supports preparation in honing the appropriate attitudes and qualities required to work in this role.

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“We cannot do it without you” – the impact of volunteers in U.K. hospices

Hospices and hospice volunteering in the U.K. are undergoing significant change. It is important that the role and impact of volunteering on such organisations is understood if the planning of, and approach to, future services are to be both holistic and effective. This paper gives a brief overview of a research study that explored volunteering from a strategic perspective and considered its impact on a number of key organisational viability factors. The findings gained from respondents (trustees, senior staff and volunteers) indicate that volunteers are understood to be a key strategic resource and to be important in helping organisations to achieve their goals. Volunteers, however, were not always involved in contributing to strategy development and there was little evidence of planning for volunteer involvement. While respondents agreed that most hospice trustees are volunteers, there was little recognition of the significant responsibilities of volunteers in organisational governance. Although trustees indicated that they had an effective level of engagement both with volunteers and with staff, the perceptions of staff and volunteers indicated otherwise.

Reference:  Scott R. “We cannot do it without you” – the impact of volunteers on UK hospices. European Journal of Palliative Care. 2015; 22(2):80-83.