Title: Understanding volunteer work in palliative care in Nordic countries – a systematic review of qualitative studies.
Background: Volunteers are integrated in provision of palliative care in many countries, but research-based knowledge of the volunteer role in palliative care in Nordic countries is lacking.
Aim: To identify and summarize qualitative studies describing characteristics of being a volunteer in relation to people with palliative needs in a Nordic healthcare context. Methods: In accordance with PRISMA guidelines we undertook a systematic review in the following databases from Dec. 7th until Dec. 31th 2020: CINAHL, APA psycInfo, SocIndex, Danish Research Database, Idunn, Christin, SwePub, SweMed+, and DORIA based on keywords in PICo search strings. We used thematic synthesis of study findings. Mendeley collaboration platform was used in storage and division of citations and Covidence software structured and blinded the screening process. Inclusion criteria: Peer-reviewed qualitative studies published between 2005-2020 providing firsthand experiences of the role of the volunteer in relation to palliative care in Nordic Countries. We allowed full text in Scandinavian languages if an English abstract was available. Results: Of 1178 citations 11 studies were eligible for review; 7 (NO), 3 (SE), and 1 (DK). Most studies had data from community healthcare (NO, SE), and two studies provided data from hospice (DK, SE). The thematic analysis revealed three overall analytical themes of importance for understanding the role of the volunteer: ‘Offering something that differs from what the professional caregiver offer’, ‘Personal gains’ and ‘Challenges in volunteer-professional caregiver cooperation’.
Conclusion: Volunteers role in palliative care differs from what the professional caregiver can offer. Volunteers provide the patient a valuable human fellowship and a relief for patients next-of-kin. Being a volunteer have personal gains, but volunteers’ supplemental role in healthcare in Nordic welfare-states also has challenges in relation to volunteer-professional cooperation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication dateOct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021
EventExploring new dimensions: 17th World Congress Of The European Association For Palliative Care - Helsinki, Finland
Duration: 6 Oct 20218 Oct 2021
Conference number: 17


ConferenceExploring new dimensions
OtherEAPC 17th World Congress Online
Internet address


  • palliative care
  • Nordic countries
  • volunteer work

Cite this