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01.06.2015 | Original Article | Ausgabe 6/2015

Supportive Care in Cancer 6/2015

The role of volunteers at an outpatient cancer center: how do volunteers enhance the patient experience?

Zeitschrift:
Supportive Care in Cancer > Ausgabe 6/2015
Autoren:
Shaun Lorhan, Michael van der Westhuizen, Stacey Gossmann

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to describe the role volunteers play in the cancer patient experience at the BC Cancer Agency, Vancouver Island Centre, and opportunities to enhance the services they provide.

Methods

Using an action research approach, methodological triangulation of data from the viewpoints of patients, volunteers, and staff was used to first understand the unmet needs of patients and then how volunteers are able to address some of those needs.

Results

Patients, volunteers, and staff all agreed that volunteers enhance the patient experience, specifically by working with professionals to meet patients’ emotional, practical, and informational needs. Physical needs were indirectly met by guiding patients to the appropriate personnel. Additionally, this study elucidated important organizational information such as gaps in care, how to screen for volunteers, and perceptions among interdisciplinary staff about the role of volunteers in cancer care.

Conclusions

Volunteers provide an essential complement to the professional healthcare team by tending to the non-medical needs of patients, thereby enhancing the patient experience. By better understanding the role and resulting benefits of involving volunteers in cancer care, healthcare professionals and volunteers can work synergistically to improve the quality of care for patients.

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