Volunteering in palliative care in the community

This scoping review describes knowledge of volunteering in palliative care in the municipalities. Volunteering in palliative care concerns volunteers contributing to the interpersonal care of people with short life expectancy. This can take place as visits and conversations, art and cultural experiences, accompanying the patient to hospital appointments, or sitting with the dying person.

Publisert 21. desember 2023 | Sist oppdatert 22. desember 2023

The summary aims to give an overview of research, developmental projects and national guidelines. It also describes tools and other resources related to volunteer work in palliative care. This can be useful for national and local authorities and other parties responsible for organising the volunteer service in palliative care.
In 2022, we performed a systematic literature search for the period 2010-2022 in Medline, CINAHL, Cochrane, Web of Science, and Swemed+, in addition to a hand search of other relevant databases.
We have described 72 publications and resources, of which 46 are scientific publications. In addition, national guidelines, official reports and other developmental projects are summarised.

The main results:

  • Healthcare, including palliative care, must be performed by healthcare personnel and is a public responsibility. Volunteering can be an addition to enrich the social and cultural aspects of the care.
  • Little research is identified on this subject in both national and international contexts. The research is primarily qualitative.
  • The research implies that volunteering in palliative care can contribute to an experience of support for the dying, the families and the healthcare workers. The experience is that volunteers are most often, but not always, a welcome supplement to the public services.
  • Volunteering in healthcare services should be managed by a coordinator, and there should be procedures for training and following up the volunteers.
  • There should be clear boundaries to define the volunteers’ roles and responsibilities and the healthcare personnel’s roles and responsibilities.
  • There are no formal competence requirements for volunteers in palliative care, but there are several local competence-enhancing and training programmes.
  • Central aspects of succeeding with volunteering in palliative care seem to be:
    • That the volunteer work is coordinated.
    • Dialogue with the volunteer on recruitment, and structured training.
    • Clear boundaries and defined tasks for the volunteers’ work.
    • That the volunteers do not provide healthcare as defined in law.
    • The volunteers are followed up and taken care of during their work.
    • Healthcare personnel are informed and are aware of the volunteers’ role and tasks.