New Palliative Care Voluteers

Volunteers in hospices are an important and valued part of the team. They offer friendship and practical support that improves the quality of life of adults and children living with a life-limiting condition and their families. The support of volunteers can make it more possible for a person to receive care and to die at home.
People who volunteer with hospices are involved in various roles. Volunteers provide support to care recipients and their care givers in the hospice and also support more people to die in their own homes. Volunteers provide beauty treatments, gentle massage, reflexology, aromatherapy and other suitable complementary therapies. Volunteers also help in charity shops and with fundraising activities. They provide pro bono expert advice, administrative support and assistance with fundraising.

People who volunteer in hospices are generally over 18 years old. Although some organisations have volunteer roles suitable for people aged between 16 -18 years. No formal qualifications or previous experience is required however life experiences are enormously beneficial.

Many services also advise that anyone who has experienced a recent bereavement should consider waiting for some time before volunteering in a setting where people are receiving palliative care or they might consider volunteering in a different environment initially.

Volunteers tend to assess their own suitability after reading about the different roles and attending introductory interviews. Volunteers essentially need to be good communicators and flexible in how they work. They also need to understand and accept the philosophy of palliative care.

There are a number of reasons for becoming a hospice volunteer; the role of a volunteer is both rewarding and challenging. People who become hospice volunteers do so for many reasons. Some people want to use their professional skills to support the work of the palliative care organisation and some may want to learn new skills or simply get out and about for a good cause.

There are many rewards associated with being a volunteer and these include a sense of being able to give something back, making a difference to someone’s life, feeling a sense of belonging, keeping busy, and feeling needed. Some of the hospice volunteer roles are very challenging and may not be suitable for everyone.

Volunteer time commitment varies depending on the nature of the volunteering role and the requirements of the organisation. In the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland volunteers are asked to commit to an average of 1 to 4 hours per week often at set times of the day or week. Most organisations ask people to sign up to be a volunteer for a set period of time due to the investment made in recruitment, training and education.

People who volunteer in hospices and in palliative care do not necessarily need any special skills or training. New volunteers usually receive induction training. Volunteers will be asked to continue to enhance their skills through on the job learning and on-going training. The type and length of training will depend on the nature of the volunteering role. Some people can only become a volunteer when they have specific training, accreditation, and insurance for example holistic therapies and drivers. Training courses may be delivered in a classroom setting or online or a mixture of both.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer with a hospice, you can find out about volunteering opportunities in your local area. Volunteer roles in hospices are very popular and organisations usually advertise when opportunities are available. Some may have a wait list for particular roles.

Volunteers usually need to fill out an application form. Organisations conduct informal interviews so people can find out more about the volunteer job and the organisation can find the right volunteer for the job.

Once a suitable role is found volunteers who will have direct contact with people at the end of their lives and their carers need to fill out forms for criminal background check (Garda Vetting in the Republic of Ireland and Access NI Check in Northern Ireland). This process can take some time and may delay when someone can begin their volunteering role. If you have a criminal record, this does not necessarily exclude you from becoming a volunteer, decisions are usually made on a case-by-case basis.

For volunteers who will being using their car while volunteering they will be asked to provide their driving licence and insurance details.

If selected, most organisations also ask for references from people who know you. These aren’t formal work references and can be given by friends, neighbours and work colleagues.

Due to high volumes of applications and limited volunteering roles, palliative care organisations are unable to place everyone. This is why it is important that you provide us with as much relevant information as possible in your application form.

Find out about volunteering with your local palliative care service

Contact your local palliative care services to find out about volunteering opportunities near you. If volunteering opportunities are available, you will probably be invited to attend an interview.

Organisations conduct interviews so people can find out more about the volunteering role and the organisation can find the right volunteer for the job.

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