What do palliative care volunteers do?
Volunteers contribute to palliative care in many ways, working as part of a multidisciplinary team to support people living with advanced illness, their carers and families. They work in a range of different environments, including hospital palliative care units, residential aged care, hospices, the community, and supported accommodation for people with a disability.
Some volunteers are able to draw on their professional skills and qualifications, particularly if they have had a career in nursing, or worked in complimentary therapies that are approved by the palliative care service (e.g: massage, reflexology, aromatherapy, Reiki, pet therapy or art therapy). There may also be scope for musicians, vocalists, photographers, beauty therapists and hairdressers to use their skills.
Other volunteers contribute by providing companionship and practical support. They might spend time with the person who is unwell, playing cards or just chatting, while their carer goes out for a break. Or they might run errands, help with housework, write letters or document memories.
What time commitment is required?
Most palliative care services need volunteers to commit to working with them for at least one year. This reflects the time that services invest in supporting and training volunteers, to ensure they are equipped to work with people at the end of life.
However, different roles have different requirements, so clarify expectations when discussing any prospective volunteer role.
How are volunteers chosen?
Most organisations require volunteers to submit an expression of interest and complete an application. Some organisations have a wait-list of people wanting to volunteer, so it may take time to secure a role.
It is important that prospective volunteers are well-matched to the opportunities available. Like any recruitment process, volunteers will be screened and invited to participate in an interview. References and a police check may also be required.
When a role involves contact with people at the end of life, volunteers may need to complete an immunisation form and then have blood tests to check immunity. Immunisations may then be required.
How do I find a position?
Looking for a volunteer role isn’t so different to looking for a paid job. Start by considering what role will best match your skills, experience and interests. Also consider what environment you would like to volunteer in – maybe a hospice or hospital, aged care facility or the community.
Then, it’s time to start the search, actively seeking a role that suits you. When you see a role that appeals, then express your interest, highlighting how you can contribute and what skills you bring.
You might like to register with Volunteering WA, or with SEEK, as well as exploring opportunities on offer through the organisations and service providers listed below.
Specialist palliative care units
Albany Community Hospice
Albany Community Hospice is a not-for-profit organisation that delivers inpatient palliative care. It asks volunteers to complete an application form, which includes a lists of interests including cooking, gardening and flower arranging, administration and family and carer support.
Bethesda Hospital palliative care unit
Bethesda Hospital in Perth provides in-patient palliative care and consultancy services to people living within the community. Volunteer roles include patient support roles, running the happy hour drinks trolley, offering complementary therapies, hair and beauty services, pet therapy, musicians and singers as well as clerical support.
Busselton Hospice Care
In addition to its hospice unit, Busselton Hospice Care offers bereavement support and complementary therapy programs. Volunteer roles include providing emotional and social support, a client biography service, assisting with meals and fundraising, and providing administrative support. Volunteers selected through an interview process receive four days of training, where they learn about the philosophy of palliative care, supportive communications skills, and grief and loss.
Glengarry Private Hospital palliative care unit
Sandalwood is Glengarry Private Hospital’s specialised palliative care facility, supporting people with a range of illnesses including cancer, leukaemia, motor-neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, end-stage respiratory, heart and kidney disease, end stage Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Volunteers are interviewed and matched to positions that suit their interests, skills and abilities. Positions include providing companionship and general patient support to working with flowers and the trolley that takes sweets and general personal items to patients.
Hollywood Private Hospital palliative care unit
Hollywood Private Hospital in Nedlands provides palliative care clinics for inpatients and runs an outpatient clinic. Volunteer positions include escorting and directing patients and visitors, general patient support, food friends, courtesy buggy driver, stocking and pushing the lolly trolley, providing musical entertainment and companionship.
Joondalup Health Campus
Palliative care is one of the comprehensive range of health services provided by Joondalup Health Campus, which is one of WA’s largest hospitals. The volunteer program, run by the Companions of JHC, enables volunteers to visit patients, run trolley services to patients, conduct patient surveys and help with administration. Volunteer vacancies are advertised along with paid positions on Amazing Careers.
St John of God Bunbury Hospital palliative care unit
St John of God Bunbury Hospital provides palliative care services. Volunteer roles include providing concierge services, harpist, hospitality volunteers, administration, participating in the Palliative Paws Program, joining the Community Visitors Scheme and assisting at Friends of St John of God gift shop.
St John of God Murdoch Community Hospice
A variety of volunteer roles come up across different clinical areas at St John of God Murdoch Community Hospice in Perth, including within palliative care. Positions vary, but may include complimentary therapists, hair stylists, beauty therapists and providing non-medical assistance to patients.
St John of God Subiaco Hospital palliative care unit
St John of God Subiaco Hospital in Perth provides palliative care services. The hospital’s volunteers greet patients and visitors and help them find their way around the hospital. They also contribute to fundraising activities. The hospital recruits volunteers several times a year, matching each volunteer’s experience with role requirements to ensure the experience is rewarding.
Swan Kalamunda Health Service, Kalamunda Campus palliative care service
Kalamunda District Community Hospital in Perth has volunteer roles at its 10-bed inpatient palliative care unit. The hospital is part of the Armadale Kalamunda Group and the East Metropolitan Health Service
Cancer Council WA
Cancer Council WA provides services and resources across Western Australia. Fundraising and supporting people affected by cancer are the two key areas where volunteers can make a difference to people affected by cancer.
Silver Chain is a not-for profit organisation that specialises in providing health and aged care services, including palliative care, in the home. Volunteer roles include visiting people who may be feeling lonely, preparing food, driving hospice patients to medical appointments, and providing carers with respite time.
Solaris Cancer Centre
Solaris Cancer Centre (formally Cancer Support WA) integrates natural and complementary therapies with conventional care for cancer patients, providing services and programs with a wellness approach. Volunteer roles include gardening, working in the op shop, business administration, data entry, helping in reception and with housekeeping, and fundraising.
Chorus provides in-home and community support to more than 10,000 people across metro and regional WA, so they can to live independently. It relies on volunteers to do gardening, driving, administration duties and provide social support.
Aged care facilities
Bethanie is a not-for-profit organisation that provides aged care facilities and retirement villages. Bethanie’s volunteering opportunities are available throughout the Perth metropolitan area, ranging from running bingo, providing company for clients on bus trips and providing one-on-one social interaction.
Juniper provides care and accommodation for older people throughout metropolitan Perth and in the Kimberley, Mid-West, Wheatbelt, South West and Great Southern regions. Volunteer roles include driving a bus on outings, helping in cafes or with administration, or providing emotional and spiritual support.
MercyCare is a Catholic provider of aged care, family, community, health and disability services which operates across in 35 locations across the Perth metropolitan area. It employs 175 volunteers across all of its services, including residential aged care and community and home support. It says its volunteers don’t require any special skills – just the desire to help others.
Brightwater provides services that support people who are ageing or who have a neurological disability. It provides residential aged care and disability services. Its volunteer roles include assisting with art, sporting and recreational activities, providing musical entertainment and companionship. Qualified volunteers provide aromatherapy, massage and reiki.
Nulsen Disability Services
Nulsen Disability Services is one of WA’s leading disability services organisations focusing on people with profound intellectual and physical disabilities. Nulsen advertises volunteer opportunities through SEEK.