Background LOROS decided to develop the scope of volunteering roles within the inpatient unit to allow volunteers to become ‘Ward Companions’. This change was implemented following patient feedback that suggested greater volunteer involvement would be beneficial to patients’ experience of hospice care.
Aims Ward companions aim to enhance the patient’s stay by providing practical and emotional support and importantly, a sense of normality. Companions engage with patients in many ways; by playing games, through reading, assisting at meal times, or just ‘being there’ as a reassuring presence in times of need. Depending on the volunteer’s own qualifications and interests, they may also provide assistance with patient care, hairdressing, nail and beauty services. Companions have also supported patients to draft their last wishes and create memory boxes for loved ones. Companions have supported patients that do not have family or friends.
Methods The Clinical Volunteer Coordinator has been instrumental in devising role descriptions and encouraging volunteers to contribute their skills in this area. All volunteers are required to complete a thorough training programme to ensure they are sufficiently equipped to support patients. All volunteers report to a ward team leader who briefs them on individual patient requirements and requests.
Conclusion There are currently 32 volunteers enrolled as ward companions for LOROS and their contribution to inpatients has been invaluable, as evidenced by numerous ‘thank you’ cards and LOROS ‘Have Your Say’ feedback cards. The Ward Companions initiative has been shared via BBC News and Facebook, highlighting the impact the role has had and the potential for hospices to adopt this approach in the future. It’s ‘the little things’ in life that often mean so much and the attention, care, compassion, trust and empathy afforded by volunteer ward companions has significantly improved patients’ experience of LOROS.