It’s not what they were expecting : a systematic review and narrative synthesis of the role and experience of the hospital palliative care volunteer

Bloomer, Melissa and Walshe, Catherine (2020) It’s not what they were expecting : a systematic review and narrative synthesis of the role and experience of the hospital palliative care volunteer. Palliative Medicine, 34 (5). pp. 589-604. ISSN 0269-2163

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Background: Volunteers make a major contribution to palliative care but little is known specifically about hospital palliative care volunteers. Aim: The aim of this study was to understand the role and experience of hospital palliative care volunteers. Design: Systematic review and narrative synthesis. Data sources: CINAHL, Embase, Medline, PsycINFO, PubMed and three dissertation databases were searched from inception to June 2019. A forward and backward search of included papers in key journals was also undertaken. Records were independently assessed against inclusion criteria by authors. Included papers were assessed for quality, but none were excluded. Results: In total, 14 papers were included. Hospital palliative care volunteers were mostly female, aged above 40 years, and training varied considerably. Volunteers faced unique challenges in supporting dying patients due to the nature of hospital care, rapid patient turnover and the once-off nature of support. Volunteer roles were diverse, with some providing hands-on care, but most focused on ‘being with’ the dying patient. Volunteers were appreciated for providing psychosocial support, seen as complementary to, rather than replacing the work of health professionals. Given volunteers were often required to work across multiple wards, establishing positive work relationships with health professionals was challenging. Divergent views about whether the volunteer was part of or external to the team impacted volunteers’ experience and perceptions of the value of their contribution. Conclusion: Hospital palliative care volunteers face unique challenges in supporting terminally ill patients. Volunteer support in hospital settings is possible and appropriate, if sufficient support is available to mitigate the challenges associated with complex, high-acuity care.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Palliative Medicine
Additional Information:
The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Palliative Medicine, 34 (5), 2019, © SAGE Publications Ltd, 2019 by SAGE Publications Ltd at the Palliative Medicine page: on SAGE Journals Online:
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? hospice carehospitalhospital volunteerinpatientpalliative caresocial carevolunteersanesthesiology and pain medicinemedicine(all) ??
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Deposited On:
13 Dec 2019 14:15
Last Modified:
18 Dec 2023 01:59