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Hospice volunteers: bridging the gap to the community?

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>11/2017
<mark>Journal</mark>Health and Social Care in the Community
Issue number6
Volume25
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)1704-1713
StatePublished
Early online date25/03/15
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Current demographic, policy and management changes are a challenge to
hospices to develop their volunteering practices. The study upon which
this paper is based aimed to explore good practice in volunteer
involvement and identify ways of improving care through developing
volunteering. The project consisted of a narrative literature review; a
survey of volunteer managers; and organisational case studies selected
through purposive diversity sampling criteria. A total of 205 staff,
volunteers, patients and relatives were interviewed across 11 sites in
England in 2012. This article focuses on one of the findings – the place
that volunteers occupy between the hospice and the community beyond
its walls. External changes and pressures in society were impacting on
volunteer management, but were viewed as requiring a careful balancing
act to retain the ‘spirit’ of the hospice philosophy. Honouring the
developmental history of the hospice was vital to many respondents, but
viewed less positively by those who wished to modernise. Hospices tend
to be somewhat secluded organisations in Britain, and external links and
networks were mostly within the end-of-life care arena, with few
referring to the wider volunteering and community fields. Volunteers
were seen as an informal and symbolic ‘link’ to the local community,
both in terms of their ‘normalising’ roles in the hospice and as providing
a two-way flow of information with the external environment where
knowledge of hospice activities remains poor. The diversity of the
community is not fully represented among hospice volunteers. A few
hospices had deliberately tried to forge stronger interfaces with their
localities, but these ventures were often controversial. The evidence
suggests that there is substantial scope for hospices to develop the
strategic aspects of volunteering through greater community engagement
and involvement and by increasing diversity and exploiting volunteers’
‘boundary’ position more systematically to educate, recruit and raise
awareness.