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A quality label for volunteers in home-care (‘Thoughtful visitors’): development and pilot-testing of a volunteer training programme in assessment and communication of physical, psychological, social and existential palliative care needs

Developing a volunteer training programme to assess and communicate palliative care needs in community homecare


10-2019 to 03-2022

Abstract project


Volunteers in palliative care fulfil an important signposting function between patients and healthcare professionals and represent a bridge to the community for isolated patients. Due to their low-threshold approach to patients, they are well placed to build relationships with them and communicate their care needs and wishes to healthcare professionals. Dedicated palliative care services already invest strongly into this volunteer role, however, a large but underused potential of volunteering care exists in generalist palliative homecare. Community volunteers within Samana use their collective social networks to reach people with care needs (including palliative care needs) in their neighborhood; however, they often lack palliative care knowledge and skills to identify or describe palliative care needs and lack a framework through which to communicate these needs to healthcare professionals. These volunteers could be a valuable resource for care provision, contribute to access to care for isolated members of local communities and contribute to integration between informal and professional care provision.


This project therefore aims to explore the gaps in knowledge and skill of community homecare volunteers regarding palliative care needs and aims to develop and pilot-test a training programme for volunteers in recognizing, describing and communicating patient palliative care needs to healthcare professionals.


This project follows the six steps of the Intervention Mapping Protocol (IMP): 1) problem statement, 2) outcomes and objectives, 3) programme design, 4) programme production, 5) implementation plan and 6) evaluation. The project additionally follows the principles of co-creation, involving all potential stakeholders within and throughout the development of the training programme, such as volunteers, patients and various healthcare professionals. The project consists of two work packages (WPs). WP1 consists of the development and production of the training programme (steps 1-4 of the IMP). Focus groups with volunteers and healthcare professionals and semi-structured interviews with patients will explore the knowledge gaps and requirements for volunteers regarding different palliative care needs, define the learning outcomes of the training programme, and will design the appropriate communication framework through which volunteers and healthcare professionals may communicate about them to each other. WP2 consists of the pilot-testing and evaluation of the training programme (steps 5 and 6 of the IMP). The training programme will be tested in three local Samana (volunteer community homecare) organisations. A pre-test post-test method will be used to gauge effectiveness of the training in increasing knowledge of palliative care needs, communication skills and contact between volunteers and healthcare professionals. The training will also be evaluated in terms of acceptability and feasibility.


Results to be reported in the near future.


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Project group

Project lead: Prof. dr. Kenneth Chambaere

Executive researcher: Dr. Steven Vanderstichelen

Other group members:
Prof. dr. Luc Deliens
Prof. dr. Joachim Cohen
Prof. dr. Sarah Dury
Prof. dr. Benedicte Deforche
Prof. dr. Sofie Verhaeghe


End-of-Life Care Research Group (UGent-VUB)
Belgian Aging Studies Research Group (VUB)
Health Promotion and Education Research Group (UGent)
University Centre for Nursing and Obstetrics (UCVV) (Ugent)