Background Volunteers have always been an essential part of specialist palliative and hospice care services, contributing to high quality care of patients, families and bereaved relatives. However, the absence of most volunteers throughout the pandemic created the need to reflect and review the sustainable, effective use of the volunteer workforce for the future.
Aims Understanding our organisational needs has enabled us to identify new ways in which volunteers can support our specialist services. Creating roles for volunteers that are both meaningful and fulfilling has been key to future recruitment and retention of this invaluable workforce.
Methods A recent study (Walsh, Garner, Dunleavy, Preston, et al., 2021) considered the challenges of volunteering throughout the pandemic and beyond. Post pandemic, we have recruited fantastic volunteers from a diverse background of ages and skill sets into these new roles.
Results/Conclusion As a hospice in the south-east of England, we are embracing this challenge to integrate volunteers at the heart of our specialist clinical services, moving alongside patients, families and bereaved loved ones. The introduction of ward support volunteers has complemented professional care and provided an opportunity for volunteers to enhance quality of life for patients on our in-patient units over a seven day week.
The pandemic highlighted the positive effects of embracing nature at a time when mental wellbeing was paramount. The introduction of walking group volunteers for carers and bereaved relatives has provided a wonderful opportunity to gain support alongside the evidenced health benefits. Blackbird volunteers* will enable us to capture our patients’ unique stories, memories and messages in their own voices, as lasting legacies for their loved ones.
Bereavement support has never been more welcome, our Stepping Stones bereavement support volunteers have provided telephone support throughout the pandemic and are now offering face-to-face group support for hospice families and importantly for any bereaved person in our local community.
* The Blackbird project digitally captures the voice of our patients as a lasting legacy for loved ones, it might be stories of their life, a recipe handed down over generations or a special message for a loved one, this precious recording is stored on a little Blackbird USB stick and given to the family. Blackbird volunteers are trained to sit with patients, on the wards, therapy centres and eventually in the community, to create this lasting legacy.
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