Training and support 

The Analysis Report shows a broad similarity in the range and content of training offered to hospice community volunteers.

Hospice UK Graphic showing a team of volunteers wearing white Hospice UK branded t-shirts with the title Community Volunteering: Training and Support.

There was also little difference in the training topics offered by staff-led and community volunteer-led programmes although the aim and approach might have differed.

What is our aim in training community volunteers?

It is important to be clear about the aim of training and this will undoubtedly influence content and delivery.  Is the aim to:

  • prepare volunteers for a specific community role and its boundaries?
  • prepare volunteers for the many situations that they might encounter?
  • help volunteers to build on their skills and to empower them to use these as they see fit in the community setting?

In reality it may be a combination of these. Findings in the Analysis Report suggested that the aims of, and approach to, training in community volunteer-led programmes were underpinned by a desire to help volunteers develop existing skills and empower them to assess and decide how best to respond to each different community situation.

One last question to be considered is:

  • Will the training be included as part of the selection process?

It is probably helpful for both volunteers and the organisation if the training is offered before matches are made.  Even where recruitment and selection are more informal, this allows volunteers understand more about the programme and their role within it and to decide if it is really right for them.

It will also facilitate the development of peer support networks.  All of this also holds true in more formal recruitment and selection processes and additionally allows the organisation to decide if the person is a good fit for the role and the programme. 

For more information on training topics and length of training, see the Analysis Report Section 4 and Case Studies.

What will the training include?

As mentioned previously, there was a comprehensive range of training offered to community volunteers. Almost all hospices offered an induction to the organisation as well as a full training programme.

A smaller number also included shadowing a member of staff or an experienced volunteer. Training commonly covered three main areas: health and safety/regulatory, patient care and support and self-care/personal safety. For more details of the training topics offered,  see the Analysis Report Section 4, Analysis Report Table 1, Appendix 2 and Case Studies.

Who will deliver the training?

Who delivers the training will depend largely on the organisational structure, the type of community volunteering programme and possibly where the programme sits within the hospice (if indeed it does).  In reality, training is often delivered by range and combination of staff. 

Blended learning approaches, ie combining face to face and online learning, may also be helpful as this offers a flexible way for volunteers to engage.

External organisations also have an important role in offering specialist training, for example Admiral Nurses delivering dementia training and ongoing support.  For information on the delivery and duration of training, see the Analysis Report Section 4 and Section 3 on training costs.

How will we ensure support for community volunteers?

Although rewarding, community volunteering can be emotionally draining and challenging.  Community volunteers meet and spend time with people at a very difficult stage of life. Volunteers also work alone and will experience multiple losses.

Support is therefore vital for volunteers working in this context. It is important that volunteers have the opportunity to explore and reflect on their experiences and test out new ideas in a safe and supportive environment.

This is often offered through group support, facilitated by staff, or through peer support facilitated by volunteers These are not only opportunities to find support but also for learning and the development of skills, experience and confidence. Support also helps in managing both boundaries and risk.

Depending on the role, the volunteer and the circumstances, volunteers may wish/or need one to one support and it is important that they know how to access this. For more information on support, see the Analysis Report Section 5.

Helpful hints and resources

Analysis Report Section 4 and Appendix 2 Table 1 for ideas from the range of training topics offered by other hospices.

Analysis Report Section 4 on delivery and duration of training 

Analysis Report Section 3 for examples of training costs.

Analysis Report Section 5 for more information of the range of support provided to volunteers.

Hospice Neighbours A Case Study and Toolkit Section 2

Volunteering and end of life care: An evidence based toolkit - Training, Support and Supervision (pp. 14-15)

Training and support for volunteers in care: Volunteering Vital to our Future - Section 4

Together We Can Engaging Volunteers 

Befriending Networks UK

Training volunteer mentors and befrienders - NCVO Mentoring and Befriending Services

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