Monday, September 17, 2012

Hospice-Palliative Care Volunteer Retention: Know How to Hold Them (Research)

                           Miss Ruby with Hospice Volunteer Frances Shani Parker

You’re a hospice-palliative care volunteer coordinator with a volunteer quota you’re always striving to maintain. Can secrets to keeping them be found in this research reported in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care?

In this study, the 33-item Volunteer Retention Questionnaire was used to determine what really motivates volunteers to keep doing this work that baffled onlookers often tell us must be depressing. (If they only knew how much we enjoy it!) With responses from 119 hospice-palliative care volunteers from three community-based hospice programs, these were the results of how volunteers rated the importance of items in their decisions to keep on volunteering:

1)   First and foremost, they enjoyed the work itself. (Imagine that!)

2)   They felt adequately prepared/trained to perform their duties. (Coordinators, you’re doing a good job here!)

3)   They learned from their patients’ experiences and from listening to their stories. (Remember listen and learn?)

An interesting result is that being recognized (service pins, newsletters, etc.), volunteer coordinator phone calls and cards, and reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses were among the lowest rated in retention importance. Personally, I think this speaks to the sincere and giving nature of volunteers, but these should still continue on some level. Praise is still a big motivator. 

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


  1. The results you obtained from your research are pretty cool. However, I can understand why a lot of people feel content with their volunteer work. I have worked for Home Care NJ, and have found that the work is very rewarding and gratifying. The elderly can be very warm and loving. They also share some amazing life-experiences (when they get to know you better) that could inspire anyone. This is a very interesting article.

  2. Stephen's research findings are important for all of us who work in hospice care. He has found that nurses and other health care professionals often know very little (if anything) about volunteers' training and skills. This can result in faulty assumptions about how well trained, dedicated, and committed hospice volunteers are! Like Mike, I love my hospice volunteer experiences.

  3. Well, that makes three of us! And to think many people assume hospice volunteering is depressing! lol