Skip to main content

30-10-2012 | Hospice medicine | Article

Hospice volunteers' satisfaction relies on appreciation, support


Free abstract

medwireNews: The majority of individuals involved with nine Canadian hospice volunteer programs are satisfied with their work, citing the appreciation and gratitude of patients and their families as the most satisfying aspect of volunteering, indicate study results.

The findings showed that such volunteers continue with volunteering in this capacity because they "meet a need" and "make a difference" in people's lives.

By contrast, some boundary issues and/or role ambiguities (ie, who is responsible if a patient chokes) are the least satisfying aspect of volunteering in this environment, along with seeing patients suffering, and struggling with family dynamics, report the researchers.

"Clearly, feeling appreciated by the patients and families they are supporting is important to volunteers; it goes without saying that they are less likely to continue volunteering if they do not feel this way," say Stephen Claxton-Oldfield (Mount Allison University, New Brunswick, Canada) and co-researchers.

"Not being able to do more for their patients and unclear roles are common sources of frustrations for hospice palliative care volunteers," they add, in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

A total of 41 volunteers, aged a mean of 67 years, from six community-based hospice programs and three hospital-based palliative care programs took part in the survey, which asked a series of questions including: "what do you find most satisfying about your job?", "why do you continue to volunteer in hospice palliative care?", and, "can you think of any reasons why you might stop volunteering in hospice palliative care?".

Volunteers from all nine programs stated that they volunteered because it makes a difference/helps others, or meets needs in other people's lives, while volunteers from four of the programs also mentioned that they enjoy or get personal satisfaction from hospice volunteering.

The most common reasons given for stopping volunteering were personal family crises or commitments (four programs), being emotionally drained (three programs), and old age (three programs).

Claxton-Oldfield and colleagues observed that these reasons could be divided into those that were "administratively uncontrollable," ie, getting too old for the work or responding to family commitments, and those that were "administratively controllable," ie, reasons that volunteers could potentially do something about, including managing emotional pressure by sharing experiences.

"This finding highlights the importance of attracting more younger people to hospice palliative care volunteerism, to sustain a volunteer workforce," concludes the research team.

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Sarah Guy, medwireNews Reporter

Related topics