Purpose Behind every great hospice is a great army of volunteers. Volunteers at the hospice front line are exposed to the grief, pain, distress and joy that comes from working in palliative care. This survey aimed to establish how supported our volunteers felt in facing that emotional challenge. Our pre-survey hypothesis was that volunteers may feel under-supported and distressed by the clinical situations they are exposed to and may require the hospice to introduce a more formalised system of supervision as is offered to trained members of staff.
Methods A survey was designed collaboratively between a Palliative medicine consultant and Clinical Psychologist to be completed anonymously by volunteers within the inpatient unit and reception.
Results In total 17 volunteers responded with a combined total of 135 years of volunteering experience between them. Over half of the responders had initially volunteered because of a personal contact with hospice care (57%). 100% stated meeting people (patients, visitors and staff) as their main source of enjoyment. Responders felt the most challenging times were when patients declined visitors so people had to be turned away (22%), when young patients are admitted (14%) or more practical issues i.e. phones not working (14%). Only one person had experienced a challenging scenario that had left them distressed. Universally this sample of volunteers felt they had someone to talk if they did find a situation challenging. A buddy system is used so they have a co-volunteer to share concerns with or would approach the staff nurse who has nominated responsibility to oversee the volunteers. The overall majority did not feel a more formal route of support was needed.
Implications: This survey, although limited by its small sample size, still proved our preconceptions wrong. Our volunteer body is resilient and the buddy system provides an internal support network that is well utilised.
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