Thursday, August 28, 2008

Impact of Hospice-Palliative Care Service on Volunteers (Sarah House Video 4:45 mins.)

People sometimes make untrue assumptions about hospice-palliative care volunteers. A common one is that we are all depressed saints. They probably say this because death in our society has so much sadness surrounding it. The truth is that most of us don’t find hospice volunteering depressing at all. I know it has made me a better person.

Recent research made me consider more specific ways that volunteering impacts lives of direct-patient care volunteers. Results were gathered through in-depth interviews. These are some of the findings:

1) Over half of the participants became volunteers because of previous death experiences with friends or family.

2) Most volunteers said they had been changed, that their outlook on life had changed, and that they learned the importance of living one day at a time.

3) Volunteers found ways to prevent compassion fatigue or burnout.

4) Volunteers said they would encourage others to volunteer.

5) Many volunteers offered suggestions for changing their programs.

Only 23 volunteers were interviewed for this study. I would have preferred that there were more. However, I think these five general findings can still be applied to a broad section of volunteers. Differences in demographics, culture, personalities, etc. would be more evident during discussions of specifics, particularly regarding numbers 3 and 5. Discussion among volunteers and their managers about these kinds of issues and more provide the open communication that enriches the workplace culture.

You can read more here about this study reported in the “American Journal of Hospice Palliative Care.”

This video features Sarah House, a "social model" hospice dedicated to end-of-life care for homeless and low-income residents, including those with AIDS who may or may not be near death. Sarah House is located in Santa Barbara, California.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
"Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes”
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog

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