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It’s All About Communication: A Mixed-Methods Approach to Collaboration Between Volunteers and Staff in Pediatric Palliative Care

Journal title
The American journal of hospice & palliative care
Publication year
Meyer, D.; Schmidt, P.; Zernikow, B.; Wager, J.

BACKGROUND: Multidisciplinary teamwork is considered central to pediatric palliative care. Although different studies state that volunteers play an essential role in palliative care, little is known about the collaboration between volunteers and staff. AIM: This study aims to explore and compare the perspectives of volunteers and staff regarding collaboration in a pediatric palliative care unit. DESIGN: A mixed-methods approach was chosen to appropriately reflect the complex aspects of collaboration. SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Both face-to-face interviews with staff who work together with volunteers and a group discussion with all volunteers were conducted. These were supplemented by 2 questionnaires designed for this study that examined participants’ characteristics and their estimation of what information volunteers need before they meet a patient. RESULTS: Nine staff members and 7 volunteers participated in this study. Their ideas of collaboration could be grouped into 3 categories: (i) factual level of collaboration, (ii) relationship level of collaboration, and (iii) overall appraisal of collaboration (suggestions for improvement). CONCLUSION: Communication can be considered a key factor in successful collaboration between volunteers and staff. Because many patients in pediatric palliative care units are not able to communicate verbally, good information flow between volunteers and staff is crucial for ensuring quality patient care. Moreover, communication is the key to establishing a team philosophy by clarifying roles and building relationships between volunteers and staff.

Research abstracts