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PA4 The companion volunteer service
  1. Karen Murphy
  1. Weston Hospicecare, UK

Abstract

Background Recruitment and training of Companion Volunteers has developed out of a Companion Sitter Training Programme begun in 2010. (Scottish Journal of Healthcare Chaplaincy Vol 15. No 1, 2012). This programme was established to support patients emotionally and spiritually. While other services were available to offer practical support, this appeared to be unique in its delivery method. Within Weston Hospicecare, the feedback from patients and their carers encouraged us to develop a small team of trained volunteers to act in the role of Volunteer Companions. The Companions would be tasked to go in to patient’s place of residence, in a non-medical support role, to converse, reminisce, and share outlooks while providing company and contact.

Aim The aim of this project is to offer emotional support which sustains patient care in their chosen environment and enables those in a caring role to maintain these choices.

Methods Companion Volunteers go through the volunteer process of the Hospice and then join the specific training sessions for this role to offer support to patients and those in a caring role. Companion Volunteers were already encouraging carers to look at community networks and to say yes to offers of help. The extended role of the Companion allows for a total view of both parties’ needs to discuss through the developing relationship of trust and care that is established by regular contact and support. Further training sessions are attended to develop changes to the role and supervision allows for support and discussion for volunteers.

Results 30 Companions are currently supporting one or more patients in a variety of ways depending on patient/carer needs. Feedback is suggesting that companion support is valued for its non-medical emphasis and normalising of the situation.

Conclusion Companion volunteers are now fully integrated into hospice care and support. They are valued for their ability to be present in complex clinical situations, offering sustainable and regular support which upholds patient and carer choices.

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