Thursday, March 17, 2011

How Do Hospice Volunteers Cope? (Research, Video)

There is a common perception that hospice volunteers must have a difficult time being with people who are dying. Many times I have been told, “I don’t see how anybody can volunteer to work under those conditions. It must be depressing.” I reassure them that my hospice volunteer experiences are rewarding and uplifting.  Sometimes I ask them, “Do you really think I would visit dying people week after week for years so I could be depressed? Give me a break.”

While hospice volunteers generally embrace their positive win-win service experiences, they also have challenges that require good coping skills to benefit themselves and their patients. A study by researchers at Utah Valley University reported on volunteer feedback from interviews addressing this topic. What are some coping techniques volunteers incorporated?

1)   Problem-focused coping (seeking advice from members of the hospice interdisciplinary team)
2)   Emotion-focused coping (talking with others, going to funerals)
3)   Meaning making through appraisal (religious beliefs, downward comparison of oneself with others)
4)   Physical techniques (walking, deep breathing)
5)   Talking with the volunteer coordinator

Conversing with volunteer coordinators was the most significant coping mechanism of all. This further emphasizes the importance of their role in helping volunteers succeed.

This unique video showcases Tzu Chi (Chinese) hospice volunteers who serve in Scotch Plains, New Jersey at the Peggy Coloney House at Hope Village. This is a freestanding hospice that is part of the Center for Hope Hospice and Palliative Care.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback at many booksellers and in e-book form at Amazon and Barnes and Noble booksellers.

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