Understanding the experiences of community hospice volunteers : a narrative analysis

Gale, Barbara and Bingley, Amanda and Thomas, Carol (2018) Understanding the experiences of community hospice volunteers : a narrative analysis. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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It is suggested that hospice volunteers could play an important role in providing community support to dying people, but there are conflicting views as to whether volunteers should fulfil a professional role or one of friendship. The use of community volunteers is relatively uncommon in hospices in the United Kingdom, in contrast to their use across the voluntary sector, and there is limited research available about hospice volunteers’ experiences. This research addresses this perceived gap in knowledge by exploring how visiting dying people affects community hospice volunteers’ experiences, and their attitudes towards death and dying. The thesis is a qualitative study using audio-recorded interviews with 16 volunteers, recruited from four independent hospices, exploring their stories of visiting dying people. A dialogical narrative analysis is used to interrogate the interview data and explore common storylines. Systems theory is drawn on to explore these storylines and the rules, meanings and belief systems which influence how volunteers manage their relationships with dying people, the hospice and death. Analysis revealed how volunteers found being with the dying an enriching experience, they developed friendships and learnt to cope with multiple deaths, some drawing on the example of doctors and nurses. However, this thesis has uncovered how a hospice system, which has a preference for applying professional rules rigidly, does not fit with a home visiting service based on friendship. This results in a detrimental impact on volunteers’ experiences, often deterring volunteers from sharing their positive stories about death. This thesis argues that there is a strong case for hospices and other organisations working with volunteers to consider that community volunteering may not require rigid rules and volunteers can learn to manage relationships and loss. This requires organisations to work more responsively with community volunteers in a relationship based on trust and collaboration.

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Thesis (PhD)
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18 Dec 2018 11:02
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 05:43