Laura Harland


Around 125,000 people volunteer in hospices each year in the UK, and due to the predicted increase in the UK ageing population within the next 20 years (AgeUK, 2016), the recruitment and retention of volunteers is crucial in the future development of palliative care. To date, there is a distinct lack of literature regarding the experiences of hospice volunteers. Therefore, the present qualitative study aims to (a) explore how hospice volunteers’ experiences have influenced their perceptions of palliative care; (b) identify the potential stressors experienced by volunteers and the way in which they cope and adapt; and (c) provide recommendations for the hospice with regards to improving well-being and role satisfaction in volunteers. Six hospice volunteers were interviewed using a semi-structured interview schedule. Interviews were analysed from an interpretative phenomenological framework. Three master themes were identified: 1) psychosocial constructs of death and dying; 2) protection of self; and 3) self-esteem. The analysis revealed that volunteers experienced mortality salience, which stemmed from society’s perceptions of death and dying. This was demonstrated as a perceived role hierarchy within certain areas of the hospice. The way in which volunteers cope with the confrontation of mortality varied dependent upon their levels of self-esteem. Further research into hospice volunteers is discussed and improvements regarding emotional support and staff communication are explored.