Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hospice-Palliative Volunteer Ethics Boundaries (Research)

Does your hospice-palliative care organization have clear guidelines regarding boundaries for volunteers? If not, consider creating or modifying them to prevent future problems. Mount Allison University in Canada researched this ethics concern with two community-based hospice programs. When 79 hospice-palliative volunteers responded to a 27-item Boundary Issues Questionnaire, they indicated the boundary of each item. These are examples of one item in each of the three major categories:

Definite Boundary Issues
(things volunteers should never do).

1) Accept money from a patient or family.

Potential Boundary Issues
(things volunteers should stop and think twice about doing)

2) Accept a gift from a patient or family.

Questionable Boundary Issues
(things volunteers should be aware of doing)

3) Give your home phone number to a patient or family.

Would you agree with the three major labels? What are other items that volunteers might place under the three various categories? It would be interesting to know what volunteers perceive as their individual items of concerns and how they differ or agree on the boundaries relating to various items.

This research confirms the need for official boundary statements. This is information volunteers can benefit from through discussion and implementation with written policies. Keep in mind that having no clear boundary policies may lead to negative consequences later.

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

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