How Volunteer Services Can Improve and Advance Palliative Care Programs

Ellie Coyne


Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing. 2017;19(2):166-169. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


The critical need for palliative care continues to grow as our population in the United States ages. Palliative care volunteers have been used in various palliative care programs around the country, enabling those programs to meet the critical needs of patients and families. Volunteers receive specialized training on how to interact with patients, families, and other interdisciplinary team members. Volunteers may serve as hosts and greeters; provide patient/family companionship; act as desk clerks; perform data entry; assist staff with direct patient care, legacy and memory making, and journaling; act as patient ambassadors for filling out paper work; speak as part of the speakers' bureau on palliative care; assist with bereavement follow-up; plan special celebrations; and assist in grant writing and fund-raising events. A program established at The Virginia Commonwealth University/Massey Cancer Center Palliative Care Program has successfully used palliative care volunteers for more than 15 years as a means to improve and advance the program to the benefit of the patients and families in their care.


As the demand for palliative care (PC) rapidly grows throughout the United States and the clinician workforce tries to keep pace, PC clinicians are challenged to meet the needs of patients and families.[1,2] This article provides a brief overview of how volunteers can be used as a workforce multiplier and how a PC volunteer coordinator and the volunteers can help ensure that PC program's needs and the needs of patients and families are met.[3]