Background It was recognised there was a gap in companionship and empathic support for certain patients in hospital approaching end of life.
Aim Queenscourt in Hospital, an extension of Queenscourt Outside Volunteer Service, is launched to provide comfort and companionship for patients in hospital who are in the last hours to days of life, and whose families are absent or need support to take a short break.
Method Volunteers are recruited with previous health and social care experience and who are available at very short notice to respond to patient’s changing condition. Volunteers are aligned with the hospice’s vision and values. A bespoke training programme was put in place to prepare, educate and allay any potential anxieties and fears.
Results Patients eligible to benefit from service are identified by members of the Queenscourt Supportive and Specialist Palliative Care Services working in hospital. Volunteers may read quietly, provide gentle hand massage or may just simply be present. Volunteers may escalate a patient’s needs and concerns to the ward staff if unsettled. Volunteers are fully debriefed following each shift and consequently report feeling empowered and valued for having made a difference. Challenges around hospital policies and procedures were overcome by liaising between HR departments, and open communication.
Conclusion Queenscourt delivers compassionate and emotional support to patients and their families across all settings. Our new volunteers in hospital are an integral part of this. By enlisting the support of volunteers, patients in hospital who are reaching the end of their lives have an empathic presence and companion by their side. We aim to support more people dying in hospital and communicate with secondary care colleagues ensuring all professional boundaries are respected. Training and support of volunteers ensures retention and continuation of a worthwhile service.
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