Working as a hospice volunteer: the challenge of professionalisation

Watts, Jacqueline H. (2012). Working as a hospice volunteer: the challenge of professionalisation. In: 19th International Congress on Palliative Care, 9-12 Oct 2012, Montreal, Canada.


Volunteering has a long and established place in the health and social care field, with volunteers now providing essential support to service users in a range of settings that includes hospitals, care homes, day centres and hospices. For the hospice movement volunteers are an essential resource in service provision and increasingly have come to be seen as members of the multi-disciplinary team. Drawing on small-scale qualitative research in an English hospice, this paper discusses the challenges and opportunities for volunteers working within a highly professionalised paradigm. Issues of accountability, training and support are considered against a background of volunteers wanting their contribution to be valued on a professional level with this signalling the need for ongoing development in the volunteer role. This has resource implications for hospices that, in the UK, usually operate as part of the charity sector. Being ‘professional’ also raises other issues in relation to suitability for this demanding role that Howlett (2009) argues is gradually shifting from an altruistic model to one of reciprocity.

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