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What it means to be a palliative care volunteer in eight European countries: a qualitative analysis of accounts of volunteering

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/03/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences
Issue number1
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)170-177
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date6/03/20
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This paper addresses the stories of volunteers in hospice and palliative care (HPC) from eight European countries. The aims of the paper are to explore the experiences of volunteers in HPC from their insider perspective, to understand why volunteers choose to work in this field and to understand what it means to them to be involved in palliative care in this way. Stories were collected by the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) Task Force for Volunteering contacts in each of the eight countries. The majority of stories (n = 32) came from volunteers involved in different settings including adult patient’s homes, hospices, hospitals and care homes. Twenty volunteers were female, six were male, and ten did not give their gender. Stories were translated into English, and a qualitative framework analysis was performed. Volunteers were asked two questions: ‘What do you do as a volunteer?’ ‘What does volunteering mean to you?’ Three themes were identified from the data: (i) What volunteers do (ii) How volunteers approach their work and (iii) What working in HPC means to volunteers. The analysis revealed that common approaches to addressing and describing HPC volunteering in terms of tasks and roles could be expanded. To volunteers, it is not about tasks, but about a part of their life, the impact upon which can be significant. The results of this paper, therefore, add to the understanding of volunteers, in the sense of giving attention, being with, and of compassion as a community resource to patients and families in difficult situations. Theories about presence and presencing might have value in further underpinning this contribution to palliative care. Understanding the extent and depth of the volunteers’ experience will help to prevent the undervaluing of their contribution and increase the impact of their involvement.