End-of-life care volunteers: a systematic review of the literature

Health Serv Manage Res. 2005 Nov;18(4):244-57. doi: 10.1258/095148405774518624.


This report presents a review of 1988 and onwards research and other literature on end-of-life (EOL) care volunteers. Only 18 research or case studies articles were identified for an integrative review through a search of nine library databases. A review of this literature revealed three themes: (1) the roles of EOL volunteers, (2) volunteer training and other organizational needs or requirements, and (3) outcomes, particularly the impact of volunteering on volunteers and the impact of volunteers on EOL care. Despite limited statistical evidence, the available literature on EOL care volunteers clearly indicates that considerable potential benefit can be derived from EOL care volunteers' contributions, with their efforts benefiting dying persons, their families, paid EOL staff, and the volunteers themselves. More specifically, willing volunteers, particularly those with diverse skills and abilities, have the potential to significantly and positively impact EOL care in that they can perform many necessary and extra functions of value. Volunteers often augment and enhance the range of EOL care services provided to terminally ill individuals and their families. Volunteers should also be recognized as increasing the accessibility of EOL care. The role of the volunteer is not without challenge, however, both for the individuals who volunteer and the organizations that must orient them and provide a meaningful role for them.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Terminally Ill*
  • Volunteers*