Anne Goossensen, Jos Somsen, Ros Scott and Leena Pelttari, members of the EAPC Task Force on Volunteering in Hospice and Palliative Care, explain the background to their longer article published in the July/August European Journal of Palliative Care.
Volunteers have a long history of involvement in many hospice and palliative care services in Europe, and some organisations could not exist without them. Yet, the role of volunteers is not always well understood and recognized by professionals and organisations, resulting in tensions around whether and how volunteers may be involved. It was this that prompted the work of our Task Force on Volunteering in Hospice and Palliative Care to attempt to define and explore the role of volunteers and clarify the position, identity and value of volunteering in hospice and palliative care in Europe.
We undertook a number of activities including organisation of two European-wide symposia on volunteering, analysis of existing literature and focus group and consensus discussions at task force meetings at the EAPC World Congresses in Prague and Lleida. We developed discussion texts on the definition, typology, roles and position of volunteers. These texts were circulated to experts in Romania, Poland, Portugal, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Ireland and the UK and led to consensus.
What we learned was that volunteers in this area could be grouped into three main categories as suggested by Smeding: 1) professionals such as doctors, nurses, chaplains giving their expertise on a voluntary basis; 2) people in local communities volunteering their time (both in direct patient contact and in other roles); and 3) voluntary board members and trustees. There was a consensus that volunteering has an important role in the sustainability of many organisations and has a unique role and identity of its own next to professional care and family care. Further, it was important that volunteering was considered as a relational activity. This helped to capture its value to patients, families, communities and society as a whole. In considering volunteering in care-focused roles within the Asklepian tradition as described by Randall & Downie  (2006), it became clear that one key importance of volunteering was in ‘being there’ and the value that is created within the volunteer’s encounter with patients and their families.
Our hope in presenting this lens through which to consider volunteering is that it will help to bring clarity to the role of volunteers, not only to patients and their families but to paid staff and to organisations as well, leading to a collective understanding of their place within hospice and palliative care. This might help to improve practice and enable evaluations of volunteering practices that help to understand the unique value of hospice palliative care volunteers.
- Ellershaw JE. Opcare9. A European collaboration to optimise research for the care of cancer patients in the last days of life. March 2008–2011. Executive report. Liverpool: Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute, 2012.
- Randall, F. & Downie, R.S. (2006) The Philosophy of Palliative Care. Critique and reconstruction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Read the full article in the European Journal of Palliative Care (or download your free copy of the article from the EAPC website)
This post relates to a longer article, ‘EAPC White paper on the role, position, identity, and value of volunteering in hospice and palliative care in Europe’, by Anne Goossensen, Jos Somsen, Ros Scott and Leena Pelttari published in the July/August 2016 edition of the European Journal of Palliative Care (EJPC). (vol. 23.4).
You can also download a FREE copy of this article from the EAPC website.
If you have a web-based subscription to the EJPC you’ll be able to download this issue, plus all articles in the journal archive. You can also browse the archive and download articles by taking a 10-minute or 30-minute subscription. Members of the EAPC receive discounted subscription rates to the journal – click here to subscribe online.
- EAPC Task Force on Volunteering in Hospice and Palliative Care. (You can also download the White Paper here).
- Read more posts about volunteering in hospice and palliative care on the EAPC Blog.